Spanish guitarist Diego Garcia, aka El Twanguero, is definitely in touch with his roots.
He started studying classical guitar at the prestigious conservatory of music of Valencia when he was 6 years old, under the tutelage of Jose Lázaro Villena, a former student of Andres Segovia.
His upcoming Guitar Masters’ show at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace on Wednesday is another return to Garcia’s roots, not just to Bakersfield, which he’s visited before, but as a preteen listening to Spanish public radio.
“I was very young when I discovered country,” Garcia said via phone interview. “When I was 10, 11 years old, I discovered The Shadows, who were from the U.K. I discovered Duane Eddy and Chet Atkins. I discovered Buck Owens through Dwight Yoakam. At that time, Dwight, he was the outlaw superstar and he did a duet with Buck Owens.”
That’s right. The streets of Bakersfield go all the way to Spain.
His music is best described by the song title “Rockabilly Mambo" off of his 2015 Twanguero album “Pachuco.” It’s a wild, smooth mixture of world music, Latin, Catalan rumba, flamenco, blues, rock, country, ragtime and more. It's all played with the precision of fantastic classical guitar technique and a bohemian traveler's soul.
As the 42-year-old guitarist told the enthralled sold-out audience at his show at the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame in 2017, it would have been impossible for him to spend his life mastering every style of music he plays, so he learns by going to their sources.
When he wants to know more about Brazilian guitar playing, Garcia doesn’t go on YouTube, he goes to Brazil. Because it’s not just about experiencing flamenco in Spain, the tango in South America or even the blues in Chicago, it’s about the transformative experience itself. It’s not just about the technical approach, it’s about developing and improving one’s life — artistically and otherwise — by “drinking from the well.”
With Garcia, it’s not just the years, it’s the mileage.
“I think knowing different (styles) or being … a specialist in flamenco or a specialist in blues music is a very beautiful thing. I respect it a lot,” Garcia said. “But I think there’s also another side of being an artist which is individuality. It’s something cool in art, right? People can go see a blues show or can go to see a Twanguero show, which (are both) something personal.”
The Latin Grammy winner (for co-producing Spanish Flamenco singer Diego El Cigala’s 2013 record “Romance de la Luna Tucumana”) is currently touring in support of his latest Twanguero album, “Electric Sunset.”
The album thematically alludes to Garcia’s move to Los Angeles two years ago. It finds Garcia drinking from the well once again. especially on the fun “Cumbia del Este,” which reflects his immersion in Chicano culture. His touring band in the United States includes bassist Moises Baqueiro who was in Bakersfield just last month performing with his own group, El Mariachi Manchester.
“Moises knows about the tradition but he also knows rock 'n' roll,” Garcia said. “I’m very proud of my band now, I have to say.”
Since his move here, Garcia has stayed busy doing TV and commercial sessions and working on new material in his home studio, offering him the luxury of being able to refine his music as he goes without having to rush through the process.
“I’m (always) thinking about the next step,” Garcia said. “I like to perfect with time to rethink and to try to do the best version of my work I can do.”
He visits Spain twice a year: once to visit family and the other to keep his music circuit there alive. He’ll be going back to Spain in July to play a quick festival tour with the band he’s had there for the last 10 years.
Beyond his phenomenal skill and fluid musical adaptability, Garcia is an open, charismatic and confident performer. His comfortable banter with the audience is akin to a conversation and, as with his previous performance at the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame, perfectly attuned and relaxed. He speaks to the audience with the ease of an old friend, and performs with a joyous enthusiasm of someone showing off their new toy. He leaves fans enthused and exhilarated.
“We have new material to show in Bakersfield,” Garcia said. “I’m pretty excited.”