The Root Bass is an electric variation of the inbindi, a musical instrument found around the world, of which the Washtub Bass is but one example. I been playing one for some time, and experimenting with amplification for some time, testing mic and pickup placements.
During a visit to Port Antonio, Jamaica, I learned that they knew all about traditional versions, and I commissioned a local artist carver’s design. Instead of a resonating box, it was amplified by making physical contact with a hand-held mic. I experimented with some ideas for built-in pickups, and over time found an inexpensive design, with improvements for players and carvers.
On a later visit, I demonstrated how to install my latest pickups, to several carvers and an audience of onlookers. While we were at it, we cut the staff in two and installed a friction-fit connector. This makes it much easier to get the instrument on an airplane, and carry the instrument around town to gigs. I use a guitar gig-bag with a bit of foam – the pieces fit in well, and everyone knows to treat it with care.
A stick, a rope, and a mic are all you really need to play, but these models are works of art and quality musical instruments. I bought a few from some carvers in the Portland area, brought some to Canada, and left one in Jamaica for my next trip. In Canada, I worked on a few improvements to the pickup, and found a way to use recycled plastic to easily make more precise friction-fit connectors.
It is the artistry that makes an instrument sing visually and musically. In the African tradition, each piece is unique, and sings its own song. The instrument shown here is ‘Twelve Disciples’ by Clive Williams of Port Antonio. It’s my personal instrument, so I will only sell it at a ridiculous price.
I hope to get back to Jamaica soon, and commission a few more instruments. I want find the best pieces in terms of artistic excellence, playability, and sturdiness. Then, those instruments will be featured here.
Contact me for updates about availability.
I love the instrument enough to make it my main axe, but other bass players have found that featuring it on one or two songs in a show is a great way for them to step into the spotlight for awhile.