Local musician honors family with song, ‘Abuelo’

HOLLIS – Local musician and Berklee School of Music graduate Fredy Guzman lost his grandfather in late August and decided to pay homage to him with his new single, “Abuelo” (“grandfather” in Spanish).

Originally from Lima, Peru, Guzman moved with his family to Hollis in 2002. Two months ago, the singer, guitarist and composer relocated back to the area after spending time in his native land.

“I’ll be moving in the next couple of months,” he said. “Either to New York or New Jersey.”

Guzman was accepted to Berklee at the early age of 17 and graduated when he was 21. There he studied jazz composition, but for the last five years, he was traveling through the Andes Mountains in South America.

“I was studying the music from my country,” he shared. “My grandparents, all four of them, are from the Andes. So after graduating and spending time between New York City and Boston, I realized how important it is to go deep into your roots.”

After seeing a concert by Grammy-winning guitarist and vocalist Lionel Loueke, who hails from Benin, Africa, Guzman developed a friendship with the artist and it was Loueke who produced one of his albums.

“He had a lot of African influence in his playing,” Guzman said. “He sings in his native language. I was impressed, so I thought I would do that with my roots, with Andean music. I to traveled festival celebrations that last one-week long, with more than 12 hours of music every day. It was intense.”

Guzman released his second album containing Peruvian music, titled, “Ay Vida.”

“Before my trip, I was mostly jazz and blues,” he said. “Really, the blues came first. That and the Andean music.”

As a high school student at Hollis Brookline, Guzman was a huge fan of the Allman Brothers Band and was heavily influenced by their music and their style of southern rock.

“I saw them more than 20 times,” he said. “In the song, ‘Abuelo,’ you can hear that influence when play a slide guitar solo.”

Guzman’s other musical influences include classical (Beethoven and Ravel), as well as pop artists like Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran and opera singer Andrea Bocelli.

A video for “Abuelo” was filmed in Hollis and was a Guzman family affair. Most of the video was filmed in the apple orchards next to Silver Lake Road; the waterfalls during the chorus of “Abuelo,” are from Venezuela.

“It is a tribute to my grandfather, Ramiro,” he said. “He just passed away and I was able to sing this song to him during his final days. My brother filmed the video, my stepfather flew the drone. And I directed and edited the video and it was done here where I grew up.”

Guzman’s first CD, “Waijazz,” is a fusion of jazz and Peruvian music and is available, as is “Abuelo,” on iTunes and other music platforms.

“It combines the music styling of Huayno and jazz,” he clarified. “In Peru, the album was received by people who really enjoy international music. There is a big population in Peru who only like traditional music – that’s to say, music from the Andes that is traditionally played.”

It was after making “Waijazz” that Guzman decided that if he wanted to spread his music in South America, he would have to be traditional.

“They’re a little close-minded there,” he said. “The album actually was on Spanish national TV. I have a video clip of “Ojos Azules” which is the third track on the album.”

The album gave Guzman world exposure as he began inching his way back to the music of his country.

“Initially, I didn’t have high expectations,” he said. “People don’t know you. But it did well and I’m happy with the results. And obviously, I learned a lot of things.”

Getting to know his roots, and the kind of music that he wanted to compose and sing started to sink in for the young performer.

“I was getting to know the industry better, too,” he said. “And I was trying to get more organized. And now if I go to the Andes, especially the south of Peru, they call me, ‘Ay Vida’ or say ‘Hey, Ay Vida, how are you?'”

It’s become a major social movement, Guzman explains, as he works to elevate the self-esteem of Peruvian people.

“A lot of people feel ashamed of being indigenous,” he said. “They feel ashamed of speaking Quechua.”

Quechua is the second most common language and the most widely spoking native language, spoken by roughly 13 percent of the population, primarily in central and southern highland regions of Peru.

“With the second album, my goal was to raise that self-esteem and make people proud of where they come from,” Guzman said. “And I’m focusing on my vocals now because when I was at Berklee, my main instrument was guitar. But when I was traveling in the Andes, I realized that a lot of people sung naturally from an early age. So I said, ‘I should try this.'”

Guzman’s has several videos on YouTube, including “Abuelo.” For more information, visit www.fredyguzman.com.