Star-spangled 'Shamisen'

In search of the Jimi Hendrix of the… [insert instrument here]


  • Brent Keogh University of Technology Sydney



discourse, Jimi Hendrix, music, music industry, music journalism, popular music, social energy


A brief internet search of the phrase 'the Jimi Hendrix of...' followed by any instrument (for example, the bass guitar) reveals numerous examples of musicians promoting themselves, being marketed or being reviewed as the 'Jimi Hendrix' of that instrument. While some of the comparisons being made are arguably less tenuous-electric sitar, oud, mandolin-other instruments stretch the analogy. These include the 'Jimi Hendrix' of the bagpipe, clarinet, washboard, sampler and the jug. This phrase is not only applied to instrumentalists but sometimes takes on a national, racial or geographic dimension: such is the case with Mikhl Yosef Gusikow, described as the Jewish 'Jimi Hendrix', and Bombino, the 'Jimi Hendrix' of the Desert. This article critically examines the instances in which the phrase 'the Jimi Hendrix of the [insert instrument here]' is used to market and promote contemporary musicians. I explore some of the reasons why the rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix continues to be invoked as musicians position themselves in global markets, drawing attention to different aspects of the Jimi Hendrix myth that are appropriated by musicians and the various discourses around music practice. In order to do this, I employ Greenblatt's theory of social energy to critically frame such statements beyond the limits of political economy, as well as document contemporary cases of this phenomenon. 

Author Biography

Brent Keogh, University of Technology Sydney

Brent Keogh is a Lecturer in Communication at UTS, and currently convenes Culture: Plugged and Unplugged, Communications Practice Project and Professional Internship. He completed his doctoral studies at Macquarie University in 2014, examining the discourse of World Music in Australia. His primary research areas include popular music studies and environmental humanities. He is also a songwriter and musician, and plays a number of instruments including guitar, vocals, mandolin and middle eastern lute (oud).




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How to Cite

Keogh, B. (2018). Star-spangled ’Shamisen’: In search of the Jimi Hendrix of the… [insert instrument here]. Perfect Beat, 19(1), 68–85.