2019 Coachella Valley Music Award Best Instrumental Performance
BY RACHEL MONTOYA
Arek Religa is a Coachella Valley-based guitar virtuoso born in Kamienna Góra, Poland and winner of the 2019 CVMA for ‘Best Instrumental Performance’. He is a proficient musician, composer, arranger and producer who works diligently in his home studio in La Quinta, California recording and performing as a solo guitarist, as a guitar/vocal duo with Arek & Noe, and as part of his San Diego-based instrumental band Arek & The Lost Tribe.
He picked up the guitar at a young age and began playing for the acclaimed Polish band, Guliver. Once he arrived in the United States, he entered the Chicago music scene in 2000 and released his debut album, In Memory of the Greatest in 2007. He then released the instrumental rock album, Warrior, in 2013 to rave reviews. The self-released album was composed, arranged, recorded and produced by Religa himself. The album is the perfect vessel to showcase his blistering guitar shredding skills. His improvisational guitar work has become renowned in Chicago and Coachella Valley music circles.
Religa was the 2nd runner-up in Guitar Player Magazine’s Guitar Superstar 2011 and was the ‘Gold Winner’ of the Prestige Music Award in the ‘Electric Guitar’ category in 2013. He won the ‘Best New Age Artist’ at the Hollywood Music Awards for the song Island of My Dreams-Part 1 and in 2007 he participated in the Texas Music Project (Guitar Solo Contest) and was named the winner in the ‘Electric Guitar’ category.
Despite the significant success and accolades, he was taken aback at the nomination. “I was surprised that I was nominated,” he shared. He was equally excited for taking home the award. “I felt happy with winning, I like to win.” It was also thrilling for him to have a family member present.
Religa had the opportunity to bring his daughter to the CVMAs and witness his win. He shared, “It was the first time she had the opportunity to attend this kind of event with me. She was very excited, happy and proud of me. I felt great seeing her smiley face after we found out I was the winner.” Religa is a father of two and has secured a substantial foundation of supportive music friends in the desert.
Religa has also had plenty of personal challenges while achieving his accomplishments. Last year he suffered a significant health issue and had to cancel a scheduled performance at La Quinta Brewing Co. In stepped his desert music friends who donated their time and talent to participate in a benefit to help him defer the costs of treatment. The event featured musical performances from members of Desert Reggae bands Mozaiq and Crucial Culture, independent solo artist Courtney Chambers, surf rockers Mighty Jack, multi-genre artist 5thTown and The Cult tribute band Aphrodisiac Jacket. The event was prosperous and attended by friends and strangers alike including then Desert Sun arts and entertainment journalist Bruce Fessier who came to know Religa from his performance at Tachevah Music Showcase.
In 2017 Religa reached the Top 10 at Tachevah and competed in one of two preliminary showcases held at Pappy & Harriet’s where he won over the crowd with his rocking instrumental Mr. Jack and wowed attendees playing two guitars at once.
In 2018 Religa performed double duty with the heavy music band Joe’s Boyz and his instrumental quartet Arek & The Lost Tribe at The Rockyard at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino for the Marker Broadcasting and Live Nation 2018 Rising Stars of the Desert Music Contest. Although he didn’t win this time, he once again garnered a number of new fans and appreciation from all who were present.
In addition to The Rockyard show, Joe’s Boyz only performed a handful of shows with Religa. They performed at Plan B Entertainment & Cocktails in Thousand Palms, CA, The Hood Bar & Pizza in Palm Desert, CA for 93.7 KCLB’s 27th Birthday Bash and finally at the first Idyllwild Strong Benefit Festival in Idyllwild, CA. Original members Religa, Joe Beltran (drums), Jerry Bryson (bass), Chris Carletto (keyboards) and Noe Gutierrez (vocals) recorded one original song, “Souls,” at Sound Hub Rehearsal Studio in Cathedral City, CA which was included in the Idyllwild Strong Benefit compilation release as well as being played on KCLB thanks to Todd ‘T.K.’ Killiam.
Pulling from all his unique life experiences, Religa has developed a fluid and groove-centric melodic hard rock and improvisational Jazz-informed style that incorporates such diverse influences as Carlos Santana, Journey, Black Sabbath and Pat Matheny.
If you’re a fan of Ritchie Blackmore, Steve Vai and Eddie Van Halen, you will become a fan of Arek Religa.
Look out for the acoustic duo Arek & Noe performing around the Coachella Valley soon and new music from Arek & The Lost Tribe. There are also rumblings of a fully-amped heavy music project with Benny Cancino, Jr. (Kelly Derrickson, The Whizards, Aphrodisiac Jacket), Jerry Bryson (Joe’s Boyz, Blackwater) and Noe Gutierrez (Joe’s Boyz, Aphrodisiac Jacket, Wyte Gye).
Check out Arek Religa performing the guitar solo from Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” using a two-hand tapping technique on two guitars