El Twanguero and the ayahuasca journey that led him to record in a jungle in Costa Rica

VALENCE. guitarist Diego Garciabetter known as The Twanguero, answers our questions from the houseboat moored in the Venice Beach nature reserve, located 17 km from Los Angeles. He sailed with it until one day an engine broke down and he decided to reform the interior to turn it into a recording studio, rehearsal room and office. A much more practical solution than the $4,000 a month he would have to pay to rent a similar space in town. In this floating residence, surrounded by illustrious neighbors (a few meters away are the Bob Dylan Yes David Lynch), the Valencian artist also spent the first months of the pandemic.

El Twanguero arrived in the United States in 2017 thanks to the residence permit granted to all Grammy winners. He got one, in the Latin category, for the album Tucuman Moon Romance (Universal, 2013), recorded with Diego El Cigala. It was a drastic change of life, which involved not only tightening the belt to adapt to the expensive living standards of Los Angeles, but also returning to anonymity a musician already well known in Spain and Latin America, both for his solo career as well as his work in the studio and as a live musician for artists such as Calamaro, Jaime Urrutia, Juan Perro, Santiago Auserón or Enrique Bunbury. To take a leap forward in his career, he was ready to start from scratch in certain aspects.

“The game is going well for me -he recognizes-, but it cost me. Los Angeles is a huge and very lonely city. Now I have my colleagues, but I spent a very lonely first year There is no Madrid or Valencia style social life where you go down to the club and always find someone Here you might make a friend but he lives an hour and a half away and you can only see each other every two weeks”. “It’s a place that opens many doors for you, although you have to come with enough savings to be able to start. Otherwise, it’s impossible”, assures the Valencian musician, with six years of experience in the world mecca of the entertainment industry.

The first thing he did when he arrived was to hire a PR person he met at a party. “I told him that I didn’t care if he got me interviews, that what interested me the most was that he took me to parties with people in the music world where I could take my guitar. It’s not that I’m a person who lacks social skills, but I know that I have the opportunity to attract attention and make contacts mainly when I play live.”. Shortly after, he completes his team with a manager and a record label.

Music for the audiovisual content industry

Since then, a lot has happened. The Twanguero is fully integrated into the wide North American Universities and Cultural Centers Concert Tour, characterized by a rather bohemian and intellectual audience, and where people are generally interested in world music. In Spain, when you hear the word “cultural center”, you think of a public space with a meager budget. “The difference is that there is a lot of money here, even for projects like mine, which are not commercial at all. There is also a lot of competition, because Los Angeles is a magnet for artists from all over the world, and some very good ones at that. So you have to get out of it. More than music, during these years I learned a lot about musical entrepreneurship. In many years of working as a professional musician, I didn’t begin to understand how it really works until I got here”.

In addition to his regular performances across North America, his collaborations as a session musician for other artists have steadily grown (“They call me for many recordings with Spanish guitar”, tells us -he). But California’s real differentiator, its real advantage over other cities, is the content industry. The pandemic made this fact very clear to him: “In New York, which is a city with a gigantic live music scene, the musicians who lived until then playing five times a week were having a terrible time. Here in Los Angeles, however, my work has tripled. I have never worked so hard as in 2020. During the confinement, the consumption of screens has increased a lot, and with it the demand for musical content for advertisements, social networks, applications or television platforms. Be aware that in a very close area are the headquarters of Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, Whatsapp…”

The premonitory hallucination of a jaguar

“It’s a perfect place for a musician like me, who is actually very underground and in every project I do what I want. There is money here to support my madness. The last was escape for three months in a Costa Rican jungle to record an album inspired by an ayahuasca trip. The result is Secondary roads Volume 2 (Cosmic, 2022), an album where he continues his field research on the transformation that the sound of the Spanish guitar has historically experienced by traveling the rest of the world. If the first part took us back to the origins of blues, country and ragtime in North American cities like Chicago or Nashville, in this new work it focuses on the rhythms and styles of Latin American guitar. . Unlike other albums, which were recorded in studios spread across different countries or cities, this one was recorded entirely in a jungle in the Caribbean part of Costa Rica, the only country you could travel to without restrictions by 2020.

Documentary that collects the recording of the last album of El Twanguero in Costa Rica

It all started with an ayahuasca trip. “I had a friend from Sinaloa (Mexico) who had been organizing ceremonies of this type for many years. In November 2019, he invited me to attend one of them in Topanga (where Enrique Bunbury has just moved, by the way). The idea was that I would participate and also play the guitar, even if it was impossible for me on the first of the three days that the ceremony lasts. I was able to do the other two, and I had spectacular images and sound experiences that I was able to record. At first I thought I was dying, but then I got carried away, went through a tunnel and appeared in a jungle that looked very real. There, the first thing I saw was a jaguar crying and talking to me. This wild feline stars in one of the songs included in Secondary roads Volume 2where we also find songs dedicated to Argentina (“Iguazu”, “Pampa”) or to the folk music of Central America (“The legend of Cañaveral”).

“My initial idea was to cross Central America, go down to Mexico and end up in Chile, going through several studies. But since that couldn’t be done, I went straight to Costa Rica. I arrived with half of the repertoire composed, but there I found the jungle symphony. Lots of sounds of birds, monkeys, cicadas that I recorded at night and later incorporated into some songs, or even interacted with them with the strings of the guitar”. Sitting in a clearing in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by cocoa trees over 600 years old and accompanied by a Spanish guitar from the prestigious Ramírez house, various microphones and a silent generator, the album began to take shape.

“I had just spent the first months of the pandemic locked on the ship, more alone than one. It was a time when I took the opportunity to rediscovering myself with the Spanish guitar, which is the instrument with which I started playing as a child in Valencia. Going to a jungle to record made sense, not only because I discovered the scenery there that I had seen on my ayahuasca trip, but because I understood it as a offering to the forest for giving me the material that has conditioned my whole life: wood with which the guitars are made. The album is recorded with a wonderful guitar handmade for me with woods from Central America”.

“The black culture part of Costa Rica, the Pacific part, has very interesting guitar styles derived from contact between former slaves who were sent there from different parts of the world to work in the shipyards. The port of Limón, for example, connected Costa Rica, Havana and New Orleans, and all of this can be seen in the afro beat of the Calypso, for example, which is very chill-out, like very reggae. And then they have the hoop swingwhich looks like a white cumbia”.

This context, added to El Twanguero’s recent experience in India, where he was hired to play for a month in a meditation retreat, explains why it is the most introspective music he has composed throughout his career; the one with more spacious ambiences. “The truth is that I’m not a hippie at all -he laughs-, but that’s what my body asked for. I didn’t want to record an album with a group, but separated from the rest of the musicians. I’m basically a rock musician, but what I love is the interaction in the rehearsal room and all that.”

the tour of Secondary roads Volume 2 It will cross the pond and land in the Valencian Community in May. Three dates are currently planned: May 14 in the Euterpe room in Alicante; the day 15 in the Fifth Avenue room in BenidormYes the 22 to 16 Tons of Valence. These will be shows in which Diego García will tell the story behind the songs; Ariadne’s thread in his incessant travels around the world pursuing and reinterpreting the path traveled by the classical guitar in his time. “I start the trip in Spain, I go through Chicago, I stop in the jungle and I end up in Argentina.”

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