A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column on Wesseh Freeman (a.k.a. “Weesay”) and his oil can guitar.
He’s the blind artist from Liberia who had a video go viral last December.
You guys responded so enthusiastically that I got in contact with Freeman. Through his biggest fan/helper in Liberia, Sachin Ramchandani, I’ve been able to become friends with this amazing guitarist.
What I found was not just a one-trick-gimmick video, but a talented and passionate musician who refuses to let the worst hardships get to him. Let’s take a look at his primitive oil can guitar and the details surrounding it.
Several years ago, Freeman’s mother told him that in spite of his blindness, he had to find a way to become the breadwinner of his family. Using a machete as a carving knife, he spent three days building his oil can guitar. Coat hangers became frets. Nails served as tuning pegs. He even begged local mechanics for old brake cables from motor scooters and turned them into strings. Brake. Cable. Strings. (Let that sink in for a minute.)
After completing the guitar, he holed himself away for seven days to learn how to play it.
“The first time I played it, I pulled a crowd,” he told me proudly. “And the second day [of performing publicly], there was more people.” By the third day, he was earning enough to call himself the breadwinner. I should note: Freeman considers making an average of $4 a day a good job. I requested close-up photos and descriptions of Freeman’s homemade oil can guitar, and Sachin delivered. The details are extremely humbling and inspiring at the same time. Check out the guitars in the photo gallery below and be astounded at the simplicity of his axe. They’ll definitely make you appreciate whatever guitar you’re playing right now.
One more thing: Many people have asked if they could donate a real guitar; I’m happy to tell you that somebody bought him one. He's still in need of the most basic necessities, and we’d love to see him eventually get his own home. Sachin just started a crowdfunding campaign to help him out. If you want to do something cool, toss a few bucks into his virtual tip jar. (Don’t mind the high goal that's posted on the page; just throw a few dollars in there. Anything can help.)
Shane Speal is the "King of the Cigar Box Guitar" and the creator of the modern cigar box guitar movement. Hear the music, see the instruments and read about his Cigar Box Guitar Museum at ShaneSpeal.com. Speal's latest album, Holler! is on C. B. Gitty Records.