“I want to take the guitar and move forward,” says guitarist and composer Adam Zuniga. And that’s just what he does on his aptly named second album, Discoveries, plus the some 100 plus gigs he plays yearly in San Antonio, the city where he resides and his music has become part of the local landscape.
Deftly balanced on the fulcrum of tradition and innovation, Zuniga’s guitar instrumentals open new modern vistas and bring freshness to the musical roots that provide the foundation for his playing and compositions. Channeling his nylon string guitar through effects and electronics, Zuniga excels at drawing from time-honored Latin and other guitar styles and grooves and weaving them into a vivid and stunning melodic tapestry that includes threads of jazz, World beat, fusion, electro, ambient, chill-out, dub, techno and more, blending any and all elements he draws from into an organically coherent sound. And at the same time he creates indelible and engaging melodies that convey rich emotional content and imagery without a single word.
It’s an impressive talent Zuniga comes by naturally even if he didn’t start playing music until his junior high school years in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, first on the violin. However, “I wanted to play the guitar for as long as I could remember,” he says. At 17 he finally picked up the guitar and learned his basics in all night jams with friends who shared with him traditional and regional Latin guitar styles handed down through generations, giving Zuniga a bedrock folk foundation his songs today still rest upon. He also delved into rock acts like U2 — whose guitarist The Edge is a major influence – and Depeche Mode, and became adept on bass and drums.
A move south to study music at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where he studied classical piano for two years, landed Zuniga in a city where his music has thrived. An
internship at a recording studio immersed him in producing and engineering recordings and the latest advances in sonic processing technology. He also began composing and recording jingles for commercials, eventually in his own home studio, and signed to a deal with a Vancouver-based game and multimedia company, Modern Groove Entertainment, to write original music for a Sony PlayStation game.
Though Zuniga became proficient on a variety of instruments, “I decided to concentrate on one thing and do it really well,” he says. “For me the guitar is the ultimate melodic instrument and it’s where I found my own musical voice.”
His skills as a live performer and aim for a mighty groove were honed playing guitar with Grupo Geno, later known as Vivir, an eight-piece band playing salsa, merengue and other Latin dance styles. But Zuniga’s ultimate aim was to develop his own artistic style and imprint.
On his first album Echoes & Light and then with Discoveries, Zuniga fashions exotic musical journeys for the ears through a global panorama of styles, moods and modes. His dazzling guitar work echoes such other masters as Ottmar Liebert, Acoustic Alchemy, The Gipsy Kings, ambient internationalist Govi and others. But at the same time he also draws from multi-stylistic groove bands like Morcheeba and Thievery Corporation, all the while utilizing electronic effects and processing on his nylon-string guitar to create sounds unlike those by anyone else. All of it threads into alluring compositions that continue to enchant your consciousness long after you’ve heard them.
As the Adam Zuniga Project or Adam Zuniga Trio, he entertains regularly in San Antonio at such popular award winning restaurants Rosario’s and Paesanos, venues like Sunset Station, corporate parties, events like the National Council of La Raza annual conference and the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Awards, among others. A hallmark of Zuniga’s music and performances is its appeal to music lovers of all ages, walks of life and tastes.
Zuniga also plays with the innovative Austin indie band Love Hate Affair, with whom he plugs his electric guitar into a Marshall amplifier to explore further sonic possibilities. As Do512.com says of his work with the group, “The great high-end guitar playing never showboats, but rather brilliantly weaves into the songs’ bedrock of solid bass and percussion.”
“What I’m trying to do is imagine what the future of instrumental music will be,” Zuniga concludes. “And take an instrument that has been associated with classical and traditional music, the nylon-string guitar, and put a modern twist on it. But as modern as it is, it’s always with a nod to past styles. Plus everything I play ultimately serves the song.” And it takes but a listen to know that for Adam Zuniga as well as the music he loves and is devoted to the future shines brightly indeed. [+]