David Garbers’s birthplace of Gaborone, Botswana didn’t foretell a life in music. Garbers had other plans. He began playing music in his early teens as a way of escaping the tedium of his everyday life that increasingly led him into self-destructive behavior such as substance abuse and general lawlessness. It is unusual and harbinger of his life to come that one of the driving motivations for Garbers was the ambition to create something that would outlive him; it’s rare for such young creative types to feel that impetus. Garbers, however, ran with it through a succession of bands working his way up in a threadbare music scene. He succeeded, however, in making important connections along the way and established himself as a noteworthy artist in the African market.
He’s since relocated to the United States in 2019. Taken up residence in the Denver, Colorado area, Garbers has wowed American audiences with his unique talents and performance approach. He’s an acoustic live-looping performer who uses a guitar and shaker to record beats and rhythms in real time. He begins looping them back and building songs from that foundation. It may not sound like a promising foundation for serious songcraft to tradition-minded listeners.
Give it even a cursory chance, however, and you’ll know the error of your ways. Garbers’ songwriting prowess is apparent in his latest single “Existence”. He isn’t shying away from any of the underlying principles of a great song and has the unabashed willingness to bare his heart. The track presents itself as a straight acoustic piece and the post-production work applies a smattering of echo to the vocal. It doesn’t need it though.
Garbers’ voice is more than enough sans effects. He has impressive gravitas for such a young singer and it’s a natural outgrowth of his voice. There is nothing staged or phony about it. His impressive power is audible throughout the song and illuminates the depths of his talent. It shines the strongest light on his ability to modulate such a resonant voice without ever giving it a stentorian vibe. It never sounds hammy or overwrought.
A near four minute running time is perfect. It allows for ample time to show off his guitar skills as well. There’s nothing unduly flashy about his approach. It may remind some older listeners of a modern Richie Havens in its full-bodied sound. He plays large and dramatic chords and the energy his interaction with the instrument throws off is a big part of the listening experience.
Garbers has a wealth of reflections, personal and otherwise, he wants to share. He’s found a durable and deeply musical vehicle for doing so and each new song shows serious growth over its predecessors. He’s one of those rare performers that you know would still be writing and playing music even if he couldn’t release it for some reason. He isn’t doing this as a hobby or for fame; David Garbers makes music and writes songs because he must. Thankfully we get to hear them.