alibi online
Free Will AstrologyAlibi's Personals

Flyer on the Web Post yours here
See more flyers here

LABOR DAY FESTIVAL
LABOR DAY FESTIVAL
9.1.2014
3 BAD JACKS
3 BAD JACKS
9.4.2014
Kombat Kitty rocks!
Kombat Kitty rocks!
9.5.2014
Brazilian Independence da
Brazilian Independence da
9.5.2014
Brazilian Independence da
Brazilian Independence da
9.5.2014
Animales Animados
Animales Animados
9.7.2014
 
 
 V.22 No.5 | January 31 - February 6, 2013 

Aural Fixation

Resonating at a Higher Frequency

Hector Peña crafts conduits for mojo

Eric Williams ericwphoto.com

Two things the average human might not know: Paul McCartney played an electric cigar box guitar during a couple of recent Nirvana reunions, which sent shock waves through the cigar box guitar universe; furthermore, there is a cigar box guitar universe.

Eric Williams ericwphoto.com

In fact, there's a large community of individuals whose passion for building and playing cigar box guitars is equaled only by the irony of a very wealthy (and overrated) Beatle playing one of mankind's cheapest guitars. Even in the hands of an Englishman, the cigar box guitar is a quintessentially American instrument, built out of whatever materials might be available and at low or no cost. Since the dawn of civilization, folks have made no-budget guitars and banjos (or dulcimers) out of everything from gourds to rakes, birdcages to cereal boxes, but when tobacco companies started packaging cigars in small wooden boxes in the mid-1800s, a consensus quickly formed that they provided the best readymade (and usually free) bodies with which to build a guitar. The basic desire for a musical instrument, a lack of money or scarcity of available instruments and a scavenger's zeal for possibility all come together in a maelstrom of obsession that drives cigar box enthusiasts to make guitar after guitar.

Eric Williams ericwphoto.com

I met local cigar box guitar guru Hector Peña one afternoon by chance on the Old Town plaza, where he was busking with his comrade, cajón player Devon Hall. After introducing myself, I took a closer look at his instrument. My first impressions were: “Holy shit, it's electric” and “are those bullets inlaid in the neck?”

Peña's guitarswhich he makes in Albuquerque and sells in Madridare built out of bolts, stove parts, license plates, cabinet handles and hinges, decorative house trim and moulding, rare coins, brass tacks, the odd brass kitchen sink basket strainer and miscellaneous junk he finds in the street. The necks are constructed out of oak, but he would happily employ any suitable hard wood. As a rule, cigar box guitars are amplified by a Piezo pickup, a flat disc that can be found in smoke detectors and electric drums and which is often used to amplify stomp boards. They're cheap at 30 cents each and simple to wire to an input jack. “Where you put it and how you put it determines the sound you're going to get,” says Peña. “Some of them I insulate and some I leave open; some I'll embed it in the wood, and some I'll put two of them in different places and with two volume controls, placing them where the main action is.”

Eric Williams ericwphoto.com

One unique feature of Peña's guitars is his use of a cabinet hinge for a bridge. Unlike most cigar box guitarswherein builders push the neck through the bottom end of the body to create a tailpiecehe employs a cabinet handle, anchoring the strings to it and giving the finished guitar a tight, streamlined look. Peña's method results in a world-class piece of folk art, but what he's really trying to achieve is a conduit for “the mojo.” “The way I achieve the sound is that my tailpiece, my bridge and the nut are all metal, so you're going to get a real high-fidelity twang, because there's no wood deadening the sound.” His preferred box is the Arturo Fuente King or Queen B, which he buys from cigar parlors locally or in whatever town he happens to pass through. Arturo Fuentes boxes are big, and he likes the original artwork on them. Peña is “a wild-three person,” meaning his guitars have three strings, and he's a slide player, so most of his guitars are fretless. Pointing to the ever-present metal slide on his finger, he admits it's his new wedding ring.

Eric Williams ericwphoto.com

A native of East Los Angeles, Peña retired to Albuquerque in 2007. “[There are] so many artists and miracles here. 'Weird' has been an operative word here, and Madrid is like the zenith of that. And that's where I was really able to find my niche with this product. I go there about once a week,” he says. “People are flocking to buy these. Cigar smokers, players who want to record or perform with it. They dig it. They like the sound.” Many of Peña's customers are women. He says it's because they're “into the blues.”

These days, Peña makes a living selling his guitars. He attributes his journey down this path to a miracle: “I got in a pinch, money-wise. I was a wandering musician and I've had the chance to play with some local cats like Zoltan Orkestar, but I broke away, and after my encounter with [the hugging guru] Ammashe whispered in my ear that everything was going to be alright, and after that, everything was alrightthat's when things started happening.” Peña started building his guitars, signed up on the Cigar Box Nation website and began networking. When McCartney got on stage with a four-string, fretted cigar box guitar, Peña realized he was riding another wave. The two years since Amma gave him that hug have been years of passion for the humble, homemade cigar box guitar.

“A lot of musicians say 'it's just a toy, there's nothing in there,' but there's a lot in there,” Peña says. He wears brotherly love on his sleeve and wants to share the knowledge and joy that creating and playing these instruments has brought him. To that end, Peña plans to teach a workshop in 2013 to share the know-how he's acquired. His larger goal is fully incorporating the Southwest into the Cigar Box Nation, whose population largely resides on the East Coast. It should be a big year for the cigar box guitar and for the proselytizing Peña, who's just finished recording and plans to perform his jug-music as much as possible this year. “It's history. It's a really nice part of history that I never knew about until I became an adult,” he says. “It can help a lot of people to get back on the horse with their music, because it's not a complicated thing to play [or] build.” Fans of DIY, Americana and fine music should know this is not only the year of the snake. It's also the year of the cigar box guitar, and Burqueños are blessed by the presence of a devout emissary from that nation.

Listen to Peña’s demo tracks, “Gettysburg” and “Homeless Brother”: bit.ly/peña-uno bit.ly/peña-dos

Cigar box guitar talk/demo/performance

with Hector Peña

Sunday, Feb. 3, 1-3 p.m.

Bright Rain Gallery
206 San Felipe NW
Free, all-ages
brightraingallery.com
 
Join our mailing list for exclusive info, the week's events and free stuff!
 

  • Select sidebar boxes to add below. You can also click and drag to rearrange the boxes; close using the little X icons on each box. To re-add a box you closed, return to this menu.
  • Because you are not logged in, any changes you make to these boxes will vanish as soon as you click to another page. If you log in, the boxes will stick.
  • alibi.com
  • Latest Posts
  • Web Exclusives
  • Recent Rocksquawk Discussions
  • Recent Classifieds
  • Latest User Posts
  • Most Active Users
  • Most Active Stories
  • Calendar Comments
  • Upcoming Alibi Picks
  • Albuquerque
  • Duke City Fix
  • Albuquerque Beer Scene
  • What's Wrong With This Picture?
  • Reddit Albuquerque
  • ABQ Journal Metro
  • ABQrising
  • ABQ Journal Latest News
  • Del.icio.us Albuquerque
  • NM and the West
  • New Mexico FBIHOP
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • Only in New Mexico
  • Mario Burgos
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • High Country News
  • El Grito
  • NM Politics with Joe Monahan
  • Stephen W. Terrell's Web Log
  • The Net Is Vast and Infinite
  • Slashdot
  • Freedom to Tinker
  • Is there a feed that should be on this list? Tell us about it.
    Brazilian Independence da
    Brazilian Independence da9.5.2014