Grammy-winning classical guitarist to perform at El Camino

Grammy-winning classical guitarist William Kanengiser will perform guitar pieces inspired by the immigrant experience at El Camino College’s Campus Theatre on Tuesday, April 18.

Called “The Diaspora Project,” Kanengiser will play pieces focusing on the issues of displaced cultures and global migration.

The concert hopes to transport the audience on a journey around the world from England, Iran, Ireland, Tibet, Cuba, Africa and Bulgaria.

“The issue of diaspora—of cultures that have to leave their homeland and travel for economic reasons or discrimination or war or any other reason—it’s as old as human history but especially important in recent history,” Kanengiser said.

The concert will showcase original pieces newly composed for the guitar. Each piece refers to a traditional musical culture.

“I believe that the guitar is the most international instrument in that every culture around the world has some relative of the guitar,” Kanengiser said. “And I think that the guitar is uniquely capable of capturing the different nuances of musical cultures around the world.”

The idea for the project was born in 2017, when Kanengiser and his friend, Brazilian guitarist Sérgio Assad, felt helpless against the creeping fear and hatred caused by the rise of tribalism and nationalism in different parts of the world.

As an artist, Kanengiser thought of a creative endeavor to stop fear and hate. He commissioned seven artists to compose original music that evokes a home for displaced people.

One of the composers is Golfam Khayam from Tehran, Iran. Her piece, “Lost Land,” is about her coming home to Tehran after years of studying in the U.S. and Switzerland and almost not recognizing her homeland.

“The word she uses is ‘disorientation,’” Kanengiser said. “It’s like, this is my homeland, but it’s not there. The piece expresses that in a really powerful way.”

With the recent protests in Iran led by women fighting for their rights, Kanengiser said it’s “appropriate right now to play a piece by a female composer from Iran.”

Another musical artist, whose piece will have its Los Angeles premiere at El Camino, is award-winning American composer Andrea Clearfield.

Eight members of the El Camino Guitar Ensemble will join Kanengiser for the finale which will feature a composition by Shingo Fujii, one of the leading classical guitarists in Japan.

Kanengiser has played in various venues around the country for The Diaspora Project. One of his memorable experiences was a piece inspired by Mexican folk music.

“What I hope the audience feels is that the international borders and cultural differences don’t separate us as much as we think. That we’re all connected, Kanengiser said. “And that music can really make those connections better than anything.”