Flamenco Legend Diego El Cigala hits New York with songs from his latest album (DAILY NEWS)
Music & Arts
- Flamenco legend Diego el Cigala hits New York with songs from his latest album
Will play 'Tango' hits at Town Hall
Monday, October 31 2011, 1:56 PM
Diego el Cigala, who’s on his first U.S. tour, will play Tuesday at “Festival Flamenco Gitano” at Town Hall. (Photo by Liesa Johannssen/Getty Images)
Everything that touches Diego el Cigala’s throat turns into flamenco.
“I channel everything through flamenco, since it is what I am,” said the Madrid-based flamenco singer, in a phone interview the night before his concert in San Francisco.
This time, tango is the target of El Cigala, born Diego Ramón Jiménez Salazar but nicknamed Shrimp because of his thinness as a boy.
He is performing material from his latest recording, “Tango y Cigala,” in his first U.S. tour, hitting six cities, including New York on Tuesday at the “Festival Flamenco Gitano” by the World Music Institute at Town Hall.
The album, recorded live last year in the very cradle of tango at the famous Rex Theater in Buenos Aires, covers some of the best-known standards of the genre, such as “El día que me quieras” (“The Day You Love Me”) and “Esta tarde gris” (“This Gray Afternoon”).
Musical crosses has been this full-throated singer's calling card. In Spain, El Cigala had an established reputation as a great cantaor, as flamenco singers are called, since the age of 12.
In that record, which topped many critic's best-of lists that year, El Cigala took on standards from the Cuban songbook, such as the title song and "Vete de mí" and made them sound as if they had been born in gypsy country.
The connection between genres so geographically far apart is an obvious one to El Cigala, one that comes from the inside out.
“Afro-Cuban music has a lot of rhythm, a lot of feeling," he said. “The same thing happened to me with the tango, the lyrics are all about love and disappointment.”
Many of the songs in the tango record are recognizable to even the most casual tango fan, and strongly associated with singers such as Carlos Gardel and Atahualpa Yupanqui. Yet in El Cigala's voice, they become new again.
El Cigala said he does not intend to either erase or imitate the better-known versions of the songs, not that he could even if he wanted to.
“I try to respect the melodies, those other singers were geniuses,” he said. “It is music from the soul, that you can connect with immediately, that is why I feel it very deeply, no need to complicate it more than that.”
In addition to songs from the tango record, El Cigala will perform material from “Lágrimas Negras,” as well as boleros and songs from other Latin American genres.
His band is made up of musicians from within the flamenco tradition: Jaime Calabuch "Jumitus" on the piano, Bernardo Parrilla on violin, bass and percussion and Diego del Morao (Moraito) on guitar. The instrument most closely associated with tango, the accordion-like bandoneón, will be absent.
“The Argentine musicians who were with me on the record couldn't come,” said El Cigala. “One plays with the symphony and had to stay there, another one is in Chile, and Andrés Calamaro was here recently, but our schedules didn't match.”
Calamaro, a well-known rock singer from Argentina, appears on the “Cigala y Tango” record and has performed with El Cigala on other legs of the tour.
“With a guitar instead of the bandoneón, there is more of a flamenco feel, but we work with similar harmonies,” he said.
There are more collaborations and cross-genre experiments to come for El Cigala. For his next album, he has recorded a ranchera, another highly emotive genre associated with Mexico, with the Venezuelan salsero Oscar D'León.
“We did it in a rumba rhythm,” he said, referring to a style of flamenco that focuses on percussion.
Another vehicle for collaboration is Cigala Music, a label of his own he started last year, which will release his records and those of like-minded musicians. The first three releases are by legendary Bronx trumpet player Jerry González, Cuban jazz bassist Yelsy Heredia and Diego del Morao, the guitarist currently on tour with him.
El Cigala keeps company with a tight circle of fellow musicians. The day he was interviewed, he was preparing to appear as a guest at Del Morao's San Francisco record release, and to honor the guitarist's father, who had died unexpectedly a few weeks before.
San Francisco is a very flamenco city, said El Cigala. There is a very strong (flamenco) community here, and I know it's the same in New York.
For El Cigala, flamenco facilitates connections between people and types of music.
Flamenco can adapt itself to anything, because it's a true, soulful music, he said. In that sense, flamenco is universal.Descargar PDF