West Eats Meat
(Lehtela Guitar Craft)


Instrument makers and luthiers who also make music sometimes make the most exciting and adventurous sounds. Case in point is the 2007 CD from North Carolina based guitar maker Ari Lehtela. Some of the self made instruments on Ari’s CD include his Sitari, Orientari and Sadari—the latter a hybrid of sitar, sursingar and baritone guitar. The sound Lehtela gets on the 2007 CD release of West Eats Meat combines a skillful approach to free form fusion with a slightly twisted avant gard world beat groove. Commenting on the album title, Lehtela claims, ‘West Eats Meat is from a song title of a composition by master sitarist Ravi Shankar. I always liked that name and then decided to use it as the name for my project.’ Lehtela has Finnish blood in him and clearly he’s heard and absorbed modern Finnish guitar legend and jazz-rock pioneer like Jukka Tolonen. When asked about his Finnish connection Lehela adds, ‘Yes, I was born in Valkeakoski, a city just south of Tampere. I took part in the usual things of Finns, namely sauna and cross country skiing and throw in a bit of ice hockey in there as well. I have not been back to the homeland since '79 so I'm way overdue. I do continue to follow some of the activity from Finland, a good source being You Tube...many interesting players there from all over the globe.’ In addition to the Finnish-ness, one can also hear the spirit of innovative avant gard neoclassical giants like Edgard Varese in Lehtela's music. In other words, Lehtela makes bold uncompromising music on West Eats Meat and above all, the CD enables him to utilize his fantastic and wild looking guitar creations. Lehtela’s all instrumental formula means there’s lots of experimentation and ample room for improvising, although for his upcoming 2010 release Ari is promising a greatest emphasis on composition. On this album, Lehtela receives top support from his band mates, John Shaughnessy (6 string bass, bass synth) and John Spurrier (drums). West Eats Meat is a safe bet for adventurous music lovers.

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Musical Background

I have been studying music with the guitar since mid-70’s. Around 1991 I took a slight detour by getting involved with guitar building. For next few years playing took a back seat to building. I got back into playing including some performing around 2002. Guitar building is my ‘day gig‘ although I continue to do both.

New CD

My latest CD is self-titled West Eats Meat which was released in 2007. It was recorded live in studio with a few engineering edits but no overdubs. The format was essentially a guitar trio but the guitar was replaced by three newly designed and finished instruments. My main purpose here was to document them in a loose improvisational setting and I think we accomplished that. There’s some clams in there partly due to my lack of familiarity to these new creations but the overall energy is good with some interesting interplay between the musicians.

Favorite Guitars

Three Hybrid Instruments were featured on the recording. They are named Sadari, Sitari and Orientari. Common to all three is the unique combination of fretted, fretless and microtonal partials all within one neck. Amplifiers comprised of a Polytone and two Tubeworks combos which were miked. Only effect I used was Lexicon digital reverb. The instruments were all strung with a multitude of plain steel strings and some round wound nickels in the bass registers. The hybrids have evolved quite a bit since the time of the recording. If anything they are going back to the future as find myself using old world materials such as gourds and bamboo in addition to wood. These materials have been utilized in many parts of the world for centuries because of their unsurpassed acoustical properties. Stick a good microphone in front and there is your best sound.

Musical Influences

Listing my influences would be exhaustive so I’ll name just a few of the outstanding ones. Hermeto Pascoal for composition and humour, John McLaughlin as a guitarist and two great albums – Live Evil by Miles Davis and Epiphany by Vince Mendoza.

Upcoming Plans

I’m in a compositional phase right now and my plan is to do a follow up to the first album. It’s slow going as I reject 95% or more of what comes to mind. My plan is to feature more composition and less lengthy improvisation. Featured instruments will include the Sadari and other new hybrids. I may also include some sarod, sitar and oud in parts and also that thing known as the guitar.

Web Site


As a player:

As a luthier:
both websites include email and phone contact info.


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