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Plenty of pickers to play at 17th edition of Zihuatanejo’s Guitarfest

Week-long festival brings an international selection of six-string talent

From humble beginnings the International Guitarfest has grown into one of Zihuatanejo’s largest festivals, and this year’s edition promises another splendid selection of six-string talent.

Now in its 17th year, it all started when five expats and two Mexicans decided the Pacific coast town’s music options were limited and chose to inject some culture into the local scene. The International Guitarfest has grown tremendously since then, with 1,200 people attending opening night last year.

The festival, which runs for a full week in early March, has seen numerous changes in venues, from its inception at local watering hole Rick’s Bar to its current wide-ranging form at various bars, restaurants and resort hotels in both Zihua and neighboring Ixtapa.

Guitarfest evolved from primarily local talent to a 60/40 mix of local and international, with performers coming from as far away as Japan, Germany, Berlin, the United States, Canada and of course Mexico. Genres range from country to rock to classical and jazz. Perhaps most famous of all, duo sensation Carolyn Wonderland and Shelly King from Texas headlined in 2010 but there have been many other memorable acts and crowd favorites over the years.

The festival is entirely run by volunteers — a small committee at the early stages and then a much larger group once the festival is underway. They handle everything from accommodation, transport and food to sales of t-shirts and other paraphernalia as well as CDs by the artists themselves.

I caught up with Heidi Nygard, director of the festival for the past five years. Nygard first became involved by donating two rooms to visiting artists at her bungalow in Playa La Ropa and gradually worked her way through the ranks doing whatever needed to be done. I wanted to know how the artists who perform are chosen.

“In the beginning,” Nygard explained, “we advertised in trade magazines, and although we received thousands of submissions many were not the caliber we wanted. To save time we developed our website and used social media to promote the search for musicians. The result was fewer submissions but an incredible pool of talent to draw from. People have been known to book their vacations around the event.”

There are rules as to how many times an artist can return to perform. “The goal is for every five artists returning, six others have to be new. In addition, most of the artists compose their own music, with the exception of some classical guitarists, and all are recording artists, too.”

This year the festival includes three popular local artists — Jossy Gallogos, Carlos Uribe and Jose Luis Cabo. Returning from past years is the ever-popular Lipbone Redding from the U.S. (The complete lineup of artists can be found on the website.)

The International Guitarfest runs from March 7-14. Tickets vary in price and can be purchased at the events, while the Platinum Pass, which runs for US $120, can be bought online. All gala dinner shows must be reserved in advance.

Mexico News Daily

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