A Voice in the NELA Wilderness: Flamenco-Fusion Out of Highland Park

2018 A Voice in the NELA Wilderness Christopher Nyerges Columnists December Editions

I’ve observed what happens when David Holguin, 27, starts to play his guitar. People stop and listen – and then they stay, waiting for another song.

“That’s the kind of music we need more of,” said one man who recently stopped to listen to Holguin at the Old L.A. Farmers Market in Highland Park. Holguin, who was playing with the Dave Holguin Sextet, had just finished singing Chan Chan, a hit of the Buena Vista Social Club ensemble of Cuban musicians. The song is just one of Holguin’s repertoire of classic Cuban and Mexican songs, jazz, mariachi and – his guiding passion – flamenco.

Holguin was born in Medellin, Columbia in 1991, and came to the U.S. with his mother at age two, settling in Highland Park. He first got hooked on music around age 13, when he watched the Michael J. Fox character in “Back to the Future” playing Johnny B. Goode in the dance scene. “That did it,” he said. “I got an electric guitar and I learned how to play the blues and rock.”

While in high school at Franklin in Highland Park, his first teacher was Maestro Raul Martinez at the Ramona Hall Community Center on Figueroa St., where he also began performing in a band with other Ramona Hall students. Eventually, he started giving guitar lessons at church. “I didn’t make much money,” he said, “but it kept me improving my skills.”

By age 19, when Holguin was studying at Pasadena City College under Maestro Kai Narezo, he had become devoted to flamenco music, though infused with other sounds and styles: His musical role models include Segovia, Bobby Krieger of the Doors, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix — and Compay Segundo, the writer and composer of Chan Chan and a member of the Buena Vista Social Club.

In recent years, Holguin has gained wider notice as a flamenco-fusion artist, touring in Spain and in cities in the U.S, including performances at the acclaimed Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis. He continues to study music at L.A. City College, give guitar lessons and perform almost daily at such venues as the Old L.A. Farmers Market in Highland Park and the Vertical Wine Bistro in Pasadena.
Stop, look and listen: Contact Holguin on Facebook to book him for a private-party event, take guitar lessons, see where he’s performing or obtain his CD.

Christopher Nyerges is the manager of the Old L.A. Farmers Market in Highland Park..