Essig, David

David (Robertshaw) Essig. Guitarist, mandolinist, kayagum player, singer, composer, record producer, radio host, b Frederick, Md, 2 Dec 1945, naturalized Canadian 1978; BA (George Washington) 1967. He began playing the guitar at 16 in blues and bluegrass styles. After studies in public policy at George Washington U and graduate work in economics there and at the University of Wisconsin, Essig moved in 1971 to Emsdale, near Huntsville, Ont, then by 1977 to the Hamilton, Ont, area, undertaking a career in coffeehouses and at folk (and later world music) festivals across Canada, including Winnipeg, Mariposa, Owen Sound, Frostbite (Whitehorse) and Dawson the Yukon, and WOMAD.(Harbourfront).

In 1974 he established one of Canada's first musician-run recording companies, Woodshed (revived in 1984 as New Woodshed). In addition to his own albums, he has produced recordings for Woodshed and other labels by the Canadian folk and bluegrass artists including Willie P. Bennett, Margaret Christl, Cathy Fink and Duck Donald, Dixie Flyers, Fred J. Eaglesmith, Tim Harrison, Humber River Valley Boys, Doug MacArthur, and Jackie Washington.

Essig made his European debut in 1980 at Mahogany Hall in Berne. He has been especially popular in Italy, where he toured more than 15 times 1980-91, and also has performed in Germany and Austria. In 1981 he recorded In the Tradition, a double album that reflected his work on a Jungian interpretation of musical improvisation; further research took him on a concert/study tour of Asia in 1982 to investigate improvisation in an Eastern context. Taking up the kayagum, a 12-string Korean zither, he studied in Seoul in 1987 with Hwang Byung-Ki and subsequently combined Korean traditional music with Western improvisational theory and technique, as documented by his album Morning Calm.

In 1989 Essig was the first Canadian to perform at the National Folk Festival of Australia; he returned in 1990 and 1991 and also appeared elsewhere on the continent. By then he had three concert programs. The most popular comprised original songs ('Albert's Cove,' 'Paint Me a Picture,' etc), blues and guitar pieces. A second was devoted to traditional country blues, and the third (employing guitar and kayagum), to improvisation. Among his other songs and compositions are the title pieces of several of his albums.

Essig was host and writer 1983-5 for the CBC radio country music show 'Six Days on the Road,' and has presented commentary and documentaries on several other CBC variety and music programs.