photo © Maya Ramdihal
City of Guitars by Maya Ramdihal
Granada, February ‘14
What would Granada be without the splendour of the Alhambra? What would a piece of wood be without hands capable of crafting it into something more elevating? Sometimes it’s the unique combination of two elements that make up for nothing less than poetry.
It would be impossible to write about the family Ferrer without talking about wood, about cypress, about pine & palo santo. The Ferrer’s are as closely connected to wood and Granada, as guitars are to flamenco. Actually they bring in the guitars. Considered the first guitar makers or guitarreros of the city, the story of the Ferrers is one of a hardworking family, of a genuine love for music and of four generations craftmanship turned into a solid brand, a tradition that started in Cuesta Gomerez number 26 in 1875 and still continues. Located in the middle of this noisy narrow street, road of cultural pilgrimage, taking you from plaza Nueva up to the woods of the Alhambra and even further up the Sabika hill to the palace of palaces itself, you’ll find one of Granada treasures at the exact spot where one needs to pause a moment and gasp for air. True, one needs to make an effort to discover Granada. Nowadays considered a historic landmark, it is this little shop that sparked the city’s reputation throughout the world as ‘the city of guitars’.
Ana and her brother Eduardo Duran Ferrer are the fourth generation of this legendary family of guitar makers, producing hundred percent handmade classic and flamenco guitars. Their father Antonio Duran, their grandfather Eduardo Ferrer and great great uncle Benito Ferrer were all luthiers. Being the first guitar maker of Granada, Benito Ferrer had a deep love for flamenco and was very fond of playing the guitar. He spent a lot of time in the 19th century in Sacromonte, the old gypsy neighborhood on sunny the banks of the Valparaiso valley. Being a doctor granted him access to the intimacy of a close-knit community that would otherwise have been impossible to enter for an outsider at that time. When his guitar broke, he had no choice but to construct one himself, as there were no guitar makers around.
The musicians in Sacromonte were so impressed by the sound of his new guitar, when he carefully crafted one, they all wanted a guitar like that. Benito then started the first guitarshop in Granada with his nephew Eduardo Ferrer working with him from the young age of 10 years. Eduardo proved to be extremely talented and skilled at making guitars. He expanded the workplace or taller, offering jobs to many Granadinos, meanwhile firmly establishing the family name Ferrer as a guitar brand internationally. Eduardo is the tutor of all the first generation luthiers in the city and is still considered the patron saint of the Granadino guitar makers. He was also responsible for the Yamaha guitars produced in Japan in the 1960’s, as the Japanese asked him to teach them the art of constructing guitars.
Ana, a tall blond woman with fine hands, stands at the door of her shop, smiling to people climbing up the hill. She was born in 1968 and is one of the only two female luthiers in Granada. She grew up in Cuesta Gomerez, next to the taller and still constructs flamenco and classic guitars according to her grandfather’s design; small bodied with outstanding quality of tone, projection, and sustainability, known as the Granada style. Part of the production is still done in the back part of the shop, a little workplace with traditional tools and various parts of guitars amidst organized piles of wood. She explains that flamenco guitars are traditionally made of cypress wood with a pine top, using cedar as a soundboard, whereas palo santo is often used for classical guitars. The materials used and the actual proces of constructing is what influences the sound. The choice depends on individual wishes, as the guitars are custom made. Ana sells guitars in various categories according to each client’s level; from beginners to concert guitars. these clients are students from the conservatory, local and international musicians, some solely traveling to Granada to buy a guitar. They sit down in the front part of the shop surrounded by family portrets and signed black and white photos of Sacromonte, of famous venues and guitarists. They then patiently tune and play for hours, with Ana carefully handling a different guitar each time. It’s an everyday ritual in Cuesta Gomerez and while warm sound fills the street, tourists take pictures outside the windows.
It takes Ana two to three months to construct three guitars. She is convinced that an instrument takes on the personality of its maker and calls her guitars feminine. There much sought after too. She points out firmly while hitting the wooden counter, she remains fully dedicated to craftmanship, even nowadays, a time in which more advanced tools and technology could grant a faster way of producing. “All guitars that leave this shop and carry the name Ferrer, are hundred percent handmade”.
Granada with its dry and hot climate has provided the ideal situation to work with wood, considering the fact that nowadays there over 20 guitar makers in this relatively small city. Four generations of skillful hands producing instruments with a unique sound. Or as Ana puts it “craftmanship can be found anywhere in Spain and anywhere in the world, but my grandfather used to say that guitars from Granada are alive, their sound is sparkling, it reflects the sun of Southern Spain”
City of Guitars is part of a series of stories about Granada, Spain.
Please visit the author’s blog http://blog.juneinbarcelona.com to find more notes from Granada and other places!