THE ELECTRIC GUITAR HAS NO BOUNDARIES FOR ENVER IZMAYLOV. The virtuoso musician of Crimean Tatar heritage (a
Turkic ethnic group residing in Crimea, located on the northern
coast of the Black Sea) is a legendary performer in the
Ukraine and Russia. He’s renowned for using his dazzling
tapping technique—sometimes along with brilliant EBow
manipulations and effects processing—to bridge jazz, pop,
and classical influences with Crimean Tatar, Balkan, and
Turkish folk music.
Izmaylov has a deep discography
focusing on solo guitar recordings and
intimate duo and trio efforts featuring
players such as flautist/saxophonist Geoff
Warren and percussion master Burhan
Ocal. His latest release, River of Time
[JRC], however, is an ambitious, bigger
production that combines his guitar
approach and multi-genre focus with a
world of effusive, percolating rhythms,
and even a healthy dose of driving rock.
What is the concept behind River of Time?
It represents my desire to showcase
the capabilities of the guitar as something
that can reflect the music of different
nations. My interest in uniting Eastern,
Asian, and Western sounds is inspired
by my love for the cuisines of these
regions. The album focuses on modern
jazz-rock arrangements featuring straight
electric guitar, as well as guitar with a
variety of effects.
Why did you decide to focus on tapping?
I’ve been playing guitar since I was
14. I played a lot of ’70s jazz, rock, pop,
and folk music using traditional techniques,
and then God suggested the idea
of my tapping style, which I developed
through a lot of hard work. With my technique,
I can play bass, accompaniment,
and solos simultaneously on the neck.
It’s a piano-like approach that offers limitless
technical and sonic opportunities
as a performer and a composer.
You also play in some very unusual alternate
I have two of my own: [low to high] E,
B, E, E, B, E and C, C, G, C, C, C. I use these
tunings to help convey the characteristics of
the folk music I explore.
Describe Crimean Tatar traditional music for
The Crimean Tatars’ music is very rich. It
is very multi-tonal and polyrhythmic with time
signatures such as 5/8, 7/8, 9/8, 11/8, and
13/8. The music is also deeply philosophical
and reflects epochs dating back to ancient
times. There are similarities to the music of
countries of the Balkan Peninsula, including
Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania, and Turkey. It
can be lively and merry, as well as melancholic.
What is your typical signal chain?
My main guitars are a Godin Multiac Jazz
and a Yamaha SG-2000. The Godin has a silverleaf
maple neck and center, with poplar
wings and an ebony fretboard. It has both a
Godin GJN1 humbucker and a hex pickup
that feeds my Roland GR-20 guitar synth,
which I use for things such as sitar sounds.
The Yamaha has a mahogany body with an
arched maple top, a maple/mahogany neck
with an ebony fretboard, and two Alnico V
SGH-1SOB humbuckers. In addition, I use
the Roland VG-99 V-Guitar System. From
there, I go into my Laney Lionheart L20T410
combo amplifier. I’ll also use my Kustom
DE200 bass amplifier if I want to create a
heavy bass sound.
You also have a custom triple-neck guitar.
Yes. It was built by Sergey Krolichenkoy,
Aleksey Vasilets, Igor Tsishkovsky, and
Vladimir Radchenko, who are all master
luthiers from Kiev in the Ukraine. The guitar
is called the Avaks Enver-Travel and it is
actually a combination of three separate guitars
equipped with separate outputs and
special locks that allow me to fit them
together in any sequence. I named each guitar
after a member of my family: my wife
Mevide, and my daughters Gulmira and
Leniye. There are two Steinberger-like headless,
fretted guitars constructed of sapele
with maple/bubinga necks. One has a wenge
fretboard, and is fitted with Seymour Duncan
Mini Humbucker neck and DiMarzio Air
Zone bridge pickups. The other has a walnut
fretboard and Ibanez pickups. The third
guitar is an ordinary 4-string bass with a
rosewood fretboard and a P-Bass pickup. The
ability to use my tapping technique across
these different-sounding instruments lets
me create and perform some really interesting
and colorful compositions.
What inspired you to cover Deep Purple’s
“Smoke on the Water” together with your vocalist
daughter Leniye Izmailov on her Traveling by
In my youth, I really liked Deep Purple
and played their music a lot. I wanted to
reassess my view of “Smoke on the Water”
by using tapping to play it. My hope is that
we brought something new to it and didn’t
mar that great composition. What I like about
the tune is that it’s accessible and appealing
to all guitarists regardless of age, skin color,