CITY WOODS +BARRANCO
Some places have music built into their foundations, into the stones that lay between intimate walkways. Places where music is so heavily interwoven into its structure that it emits from the street lights, some places have soundtracks and Barranco is one of those places. I had been traveling alone for maybe one week, when I fell into Barranco and immediately it wrapped me into its culture. I walked the cobblestone streets in the warmth of an early April afternoon, and as the sun moved over me so did the songs of Barranco. I could hear warmth of a muted trumpet, the familiar serenade of a nylon string guitar. I walked these streets feeling something that I have only felt in one other place; New Orleans. Now Barranco is all its own unique but if you’ve ever been to New Orleans you know that particular feeling one feels while walking the french quarter and hearing world class musicians performing on the street. I knew I would hear music just the way I loved to hear it, live and real in front of me, from people doing it from the bottom of their soul.
That's where I met Diego, I had just ended a walking tour that wove me in and out of the entire city and the nearest southern town. My guide who was remarkably from San Diego California, was also a musician and as we began connecting over the subject he invited me to El Gato a club in downtown Barranco. Downtown Barranco is cozy, lined with art galleries, a city by artist for artist. The night was warm and myself and my roommate Alex from Boston set off to our destination. My tour guide met us there and explained that El Gato was a place that had a variety of instruments and anyone could play at anytime. Exactly two gin and tonics later I had a guitar in hand, my guide grabbed some hand drums and we just jammed. With a few seconds there was a woman playing violin and Diego with a guitar and a microphone. When Diego began to sing I was in complete shock. He had a voice laden with richness and pain that comes with only one genre; blues. This man began to sing the blues with all the pain and realness one would expect to hear in the very deepest parts of the North American south. Now Blues music is ingrained into my being, my grandmother would play cards and blues on the loudest volume until 3am on a tuesday night, needless to say I know Blues music. Diego’s voice was filled to the very top with a crystal clear relentlessness, and adamant pain that only blues music can communicate. The end of our jam session came and I had to meet this man, I approached him and expressed my gratitude for our meeting and playing. His speaking voice surprised me, a pitch higher than the depth of his singing voice and entirely more optimistic. We chatted and he handed me a card with the words City Woods on the cover, I saved that card in my travel notebook for exactly this moment.
Diego is from Lima/Barranco Peru, at age eight he had to choose an instrument for schooling purposes. He chose the guitar and his mother bought him one of his own. He describes the feeling of owning his own instrument as “Heavenly” a feeling I resonate with so deeply. He began learning on a classical nylon string guitar and continued lessons through his schooling. Diego began to find inspiration in Rock music, but did not stop with Rock, he decided to trace the origins. He wanted to know where rock came from and that led him to some of his more obvious inspirations, Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, Bill Withers and Robert Johnson. Being an artist of any kind, knows that they are split between creativity and the real world. In the real world Diego worked in finance and split his time between music and work. When talking to Diego he described his relationship with music,” She’s always been there for me, but at a time I wasn’t there for her”. So he decided to give in to the call that we all feel as musicians, that voice that “says put your heart into this”. He spent some time in a band with a friend, but after being introduced to a music producer who could help him achieve his specific music goals he began his band City woods. This band has such a beautifully distinct presence. Their song Freedom has everything that a good song needs, good composition and a clarity that is executed with professional ease.
Diego describes music as,” One of the most honest forms of expression that there is. It never lies, if you are honest about yourself it is translated in every song you play, every song you sing.” He is an artist inspired by life experiences especially the concept of leaving behind the corporate success to follow the direction of his own path. He inspires me and fully embodies what it means to start from scratch and follow your heart. When asked about his dream collaboration he said, “Ben Howard but also anyone who wants to do something” I loved that answer.
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