A harmony of artistry and innovation in the mother city

A harmony of artistry and innovation in the mother city
A harmony of artistry and innovation in the mother city

Award-winning international guitarist commissions custom instrument made in South Africa

Casimi guitars, made in Cape Town by a duo with an international reputation as two of the greatest guitar makers of their generation, are highly sought after by collectors – particularly in the USA, Europe and Asia – for the beautiful sound they produce. Creating a mere six instruments a year, Matthew Rice and Matthias Roux unite the disciplines of design, music and craftsmanship with the aim of taking handcrafted acoustic guitars to a new level. Their pieces are so popular that Casimi can only take on their next commission in 2026.

While most acoustic steel-string guitars are mass produced in factories around the world, Rice and Roux are part of a small community of craftsmen known as luthiers, who handmake their instruments with the same care and attention to sound and quality as traditional violin makers. But it’s not only exquisite timbre that makes their pieces stand out. There is a high degree of artistry in the strikingly beautiful illustration, ornamentation and inlay work that embellish the instruments, as well as in the sculptural signature shapes and special features. Casimi, an Arabic astrological term meaning ‘the heart of the sun’, places itself at the epicentre of creativity.

Rice and Roux, who have been friends since early childhood, have long built and collaborated on projects of all shapes and sizes. Both built their first guitars at the age of 18, the former under instrument builder Urs Hauptle, and the latter under the mentorship of Marc Maingard.

For Roux, this ignited an enduring passion for luthiery – the art of building and restoring guitars – and he went on to become the head luthier in charge of production at Maingard Guitars, a highly respected workshop that was producing instruments for the likes of American guitarist Steven Stills of Crosby Stills Nash and Young, composer Earl Klugh, actor and musician Steven Seagal, and top agents around the world.

Rice is a creative all-rounder: a well-known singer, songwriter and guitarist who spent ten years on the live-performance circuit, he combines his love of music with a passion for design and jewellery-making. His silversmithing skills have become a trademark of the Casimi workshop.

The duo’s ‘lightbulb moment’ happened when Roux invited Rice to attend an acoustic-guitar-making workshop. The instrument built on the course became the prototype Casimi C2S, which is still part of the duo’s offering today. ‘Realising that we had created something special and unique, Matthias and I decided we would have to open our own workshop in order to pursue the direction we felt called to go in,’ says Rice. ‘In January 2012 we officially opened our workshop and have been gaining momentum ever since.’

Today this same workshop, which is located in the Mother City’s southern suburbs, produces five standard guitar models and all manner of customisations and signature features that cater to artists and collectors’ particular requirements. For over a decade, Casimi have created extraordinary bespoke guitars for discerning players and collectors around the world.

Most recently, Casimi completed an instrument for award-winning British guitarist Michael Watts, with woods chosen and the design intended to augment Watts's unique and  beautiful musical voice. A past recipient of Guitar Player magazine’s Acoustic Guitarist of the Year award, Watts is globally acknowledged as an authority on handmade guitars. ‘I am thrilled to make music with a Casimi guitar – they create some of the most wonderful musical instruments I have ever heard, and I look forward to many years of recording and composing using this instrument,’ he says.

Watts has performed all over the world, from Germany to Hawaii, and his charismatic stage presence, and the depth of emotion and colour in his playing, have led to invitations to demonstrate the work of many of the greatest living guitar makers at festivals around the world.

‘We are so happy that a guitarist of Michael Watts’s calibre has chosen to have an instrument made by Casimi Guitars,’ say Rice and Roux. ‘Michael is one of our favourite musicians, with a beautiful touch. We can’t wait to hear the music that he makes with it.’

Watts will be visiting South Africa from 7 to 17 January 2024 to collect his instrument, and to mark the occasion he will perform an intimate candlelit and unamplified concert in the Casimi Guitars workshop for special guests.

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