Interview with Diego García, the Twanguero

Feb 22, 2023

Interview with Diego García, the Twanguero

Diego García, better known as “Twanguero” talks to us about the curiosities of his name and explains the creation of his latest album “Carreteras Secundarias vol.2”.

He also shows us his Ramírez guitars and his relationship with our family, don’t miss this post!

Origin of the name Twanguero

The name “Twanguero” comes from the word “twang” which is an onomatopoeia of when a string vibrates, like a bow or a guitar string. Thus, “twanguero” is the one who makes the strings vibrate.

The “twang” can be applied to any guitar. Obviously, it comes from electric guitars and was associated with the sound of 50’s California surf guitars, but really, it can be applied to any string vibration.

The Spanish guitar also has the “twang”, more than any other guitar, and the flamencos do it when they do the Alzapúa, which they play more towards the bridge. That is also taking the “twang” out of the Spanish guitar.

Combination of pick and nail

I tried to mix a bit of American guitar techniques, which use the pick, and adapt it to the nylon sound, to have that fusion where with a plastic pick and the combination of the nails I can get two different sounds. It’s like trying to have two guitar players in one.

With the plectrum I can achieve a difference in colour and tone between the low and high strings and perhaps, with the fingernail alone, I could not do it, because it is a question of hand position, where the thumb, having it completely horizontal, makes it difficult to position.

The Ramírez guitar

In my last album I went back to my roots, because I started studying at the conservatory, playing a guitar with nylon strings, specifically a Ramírez.

When the pandemic started I was living in California and I had just bought my new Ramírez Tablao, remembering my childhood and my origins. So I put in a lot of hours on the Spanish guitar.

The new album studies the music of America. Volume 1, which I released in 2017, covered more of the North American side, and this volume 2 is more focused on Latin American guitars.

So there was no other way to do it than with a nylon guitar and, in particular, with this tablao guitar, with which I identified a lot and studied it a lot for a year.

Recording of volume 2

I started recording it in the Joshua Tree desert, which is two hours away from Los Angeles. The truth is that I didn’t really like the way it sounded, I don’t have any scientific basis for this, I don’t know if the degree of dryness or humidity can affect it.

As a good musician, I consider myself to be all about intuition, but it’s true that in the desert I don’t really like it. So, when I arrived in Costa Rica, in the jungle part of the Caribbean, during the first few days, until it got used to it, the guitar made its adjustment and, in a way, I think it realised that it had returned home.

I can’t say technically how it fitted, but it sounded especially good, it transmitted much better than in a particularly dry climate. I was also interested in doing a kind of homage to the forest, so I went into the jungle to do it.

It consisted of paying homage to the trees for the gift they had given me in the form of the guitar, which is the instrument that has conditioned my life.

Tribute to the forest

What I wanted was to close the circle between the forest, the guitar builder, who in this case is Ramírez, and the musician, who could have been anyone else, it didn’t have to be me, but in this case it was me who was there.

In this way, I wanted to close the loop and make sense of cutting down a tree. I mean, as a guitar player I always felt a bit guilty, but trees are cut down for a good reason, to make high quality guitars and to give back to the forest in the form of music, that offering.

Shortly before the pandemic I was invited to play in an Ayahuasca ceremony. It’s like a ritual where you go on a mental or spiritual journey and I saw myself in the jungle, playing the guitar, surrounded by birds and the sound of cicadas.

Curiously, when I sat down in the mornings to play a few chords, the cicadas were lowered in volume, it was spectacular.

The journey of my volume 1

My idea of making volume 2 was to travel, because for me, travelling is absolutely linked to my way of understanding music. I have made records in Argentina, in Los Angeles, in Mexico.

Volume 1 of Secondary Roads is a journey that began in Chicago and ended in Patagonia. The trip is fundamental, because it is where I have contact with the music I want to approach, with good musicians, good guitarists who can teach me how they see the guitar in those latitudes.

At the end of the day, the guitar is a tree, it is transformed and, depending on the life you give it, it is more alive or more dead, the guitar is alive when you play it. So, I wanted to listen to the guitar in a tree environment and I was also very influenced by the cuisine, the Afro tradition they have in the Caribbean, with the lobsters and the fish that they eat with their hands, they make your nails very strong, so I’m also feeding the performance.

Obviously, my influences are not only musical, I can be inspired by a sunset in the Pacific. That can give me the colours and I really like to relate the colours to the notes.

It’s having your senses wide open to try to take all that information and try to focus it in your hands, to tell stories.

How I got the Ramírez guitar

I have had this guitar for many years, it came into my hands in a curious way.

They had built it at the end of the 80s and I think it was one of the first ones with these characteristics, one of the first Ramírez that you can plug in, that you can play on a big stage and it was built for a well-known artist to whom I went to do some music work and he gave it to me.

He rewarded me for that work instead of money with this guitar, which I can’t put a figure on, because of what it means to me. I have been able to reinvent my career thanks to this guitar model.

Guitar lovers in the United States

In the United States the guitarist is still considered a figure, there are still guitar lovers. There is one thing that surprised me a lot the first few times I went to play in the United States, and that is all the associations and clubs of guitar lovers that are private, many on the west coast, although there are all over the country.

There you’re going to play for an audience of maybe 200 or 300 subscribers and, once a month, normally, they usually bring certain types of guitarists. They’re usually acoustic, I mean they play acoustic guitar or Spanish guitar and they’re usually more solo concerts.

That circuit is very good because it’s private and it’s for guitar lovers. I have been there several times to play and it is like private parties where suddenly you have 200 people listening to a guitarist, there is a love and respect for the instrument, there is a passion from the audience to listen to performers and specialists in an instrument that absolutely represents the world’s folklore.

The guitar and Spain

Wherever you go you’re going to find a good guitarist, but it’s true that there is a very strong association between guitar and Spain. It is a tandem that is installed in the American ideology, perhaps because of the first trips made by the maestro Andrés Segovia or Sabicas, who installed the guitar there among a more select public.

This guitar-Spain pairing is very strong and little exploited. Some guitarists from Spain regularly go to play in the United States, like the maestro Vicente Amigo, who is very much loved in the United States, and Tomatito I know has also been there a few times, but in general, I see that with all the maestros in Spain, few are going to play there, in my opinion.

I think that perhaps on the part of the institutions or even the part of the government that has to do, not only with culture, but also with research and development, there could be a little more support for this tradition that represents us.

The whole trajectory of the Spanish guitar in the history of the last two centuries is something that has really been exported, but without anyone’s help.

The guitar as we know it was born in Almería. The maestro Antonio Torres was one of the first to do this and naturally it spread throughout the world, but without the support of anyone.

I think it wouldn’t hurt to adopt that figure, that pairing of guitar and Spain, using it as a cultural “weapon” with which we can defend ourselves on the world artistic scene. I think there should be more Spanish guitarists going abroad and being supported by the different organisations that have to do with the government and the Spanish brand.

We have here a good tool to represent our folklore and our culture and, above all, that trajectory of effort of the musicians to follow that tradition that others did before us and to take a step further in this art that is the Spanish guitar, which includes the music, the construction of these marvellous instruments on which the rest of the guitars of the world have been based, because the figure of the guitar comes from here.

Relationship with the Ramírez family

My relationship with the Ramírez family started in California when we met at the Nam Show. It’s a fair where the entire musical instrument industry comes together once a year.

They were there and I went over to see a Ramírez who was an amazing guitarist. I started to play and the people who were there started to form a circle, I looked to the right and saw Cristina Ramírez.

There we became friends and a relationship of guitars and music began. They have come many times to see me play and the truth is that it’s a great experience, as it brought together an instrument I have had for many years with a personal relationship.

Besides, I travel a lot and, if I need anything, the Ramírez are willing to help me.

My other Ramírez guitar

The reason I chose this guitar to play live is because it perfectly combines tradition, being a Spanish guitar, with the modernity and practicality of the American guitar.

It’s a guitar that plugs in, that fits very well to the body, on which I can reach the lower frets. It’s a beautiful guitar and the Americans love it. I call it the Spanish Cowboy.

On the album I used the tablao guitar which has a different feel, a deeper sound and I think it has the real fusion with which I can play the music I make, which is a mixture of the Spanish guitar, but with those American touches.

In the United States, let’s say that the idea they have of the Spanish guitar has always been linked to flamenco or classical guitar. So I wanted to give it a twist and bring the Spanish guitar to them, but with their own language, which, I don’t know if it’s better or worse, but at least it’s unique.

I’ve played in Nashville, in New York, in Florida or in Bakersfield, which is the city of country music, and I’ve arrived with this guitar and they said to me: “Men, what is this? They couldn’t imagine that a Spanish guitar could sound like this.

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