As I arrived in Granada a few weeks ago I learned of the passing of our good friend and great luthier Bernd Martin. Martin – everyone in Granada just called him Martin – arrived in Granada in 1976 and was the first expat to establish himself as a luthier here in this city that has now been home to so many luthiers from all over the world. Martin embraced the Granada style and began building beautiful guitars – classical and flamenco – that went to clients all over the world.
I first met Martin around 1992. Back then I would occasionally buy relatively inexpensive Spanish flamencos to sell back in New York (I had to pay for my trips somehow..), and I would always have Martin set up the guitars for me or even refret them to turn inexpensive but good-sounding guitars into very decent and playable guitars. Martin loved flamenco – his wife Mati is a flamenco singer and dancer – and we would hang out and play. He would show me some great falsetas or tidbits and it was always fun to visit his shop back then and just hang out.
Every time I come to Spain, and especially to Granada, I think that people here just know how to enjoy life a little better than we do in the States. I didn’t know Martin well enough to know if he came in search of that lifestyle, if he came here because he already lived that way, or if he learned to embrace the life once he arrived, but for me he was a great example of someone who had found that balance between the life of an obsessive perfectionist (which made him a great maker) and someone who actually enjoyed life.
The guitar world has lost an important figure in Bernd Martin, and I will very much miss him as a friend. Check out the beautiful video below that gives some great insight into his life as a guitar maker, with great music by Granada-based flamenco guitarist Luis Mariano.
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