Flamenco Fusion With Argentine Flair Salted by Traditional Modes (THE NEW YORK TIMES)
Flamenco Fusion With Argentine Flair Salted by Traditional Modes
Chad Batka for The New York Times
Published: November 2, 2011
The form of the flamenco singer Diego el Cigala’s concert on Tuesday night at Town Hall wasn’t much of a story. The members of his five-piece band walked on and off, according to arrangements. The modes and rhythms of traditional flamenco dominated the two-hour concert, no matter where the songs came from originally, and made it feel like one long song. El Cigala, in a dark sharkskin suit, gold jewelry and black velvet slipper shoes, stayed mostly stationary on a high stool at center stage, speaking between a few songs while pulled back from the microphone, as if he had no worries about clarifying or tending to his identity.
There was enough of his identity for four or five concerts. All his movements and gestures seemed to answer or anticipate the music’s beats and silences, which formed a constantly shifting grid through the interaction of guitar, bass, piano, violin and the boxlike cajón. At decisive moments he slowly outstretched his arm to snap his fingers, forcefully, with his pinky extended. When he smiled, his long bearded face seemed to harden and sharpen; then he intensely smoothed down the corners of his mustache. His rhythmic handclapping was all palmas sordas, the quiet kind, accompanying other musicians or himself; he mashed his cupped hands together in a cross, rubbing their heels together, as if he had something in them. (He did: sound.)
The performance was alert and torrential in small moments, as great flamenco performances tend to be, even though it wasn’t made of traditional flamenco material. El Cigala, born Diego Ramón Jiménez Salazar, is a Gitano singer from Madrid in his mid-40s who grew up encouraged by masters of the form; he had his first major success in 2003 on a record of songs from Cuba, Mexico and Argentina, “Lagrimas Negras,” made with the Cuban pianist Bebo Valdés, which sold more than a million copies worldwide.
Songs like that weren’t necessarily in Cigala’s repertory before, but the international audience for flamenco seems to be in fusions or extensions, and now it would be unusual for him to play a concert without a Cuban bolero; he’s also surrounded himself with a touring band that can easily move into jazz harmony and Cuban rhythm. His most recent album, “Cigala & Tango” — released last year on his new label, Cigala Music — is full of Argentine songs by Carlos Gardel and other tango composers. Tuesday’s concert, produced by the World Music Institute as part of its Festival Flamenco Gitano, ran through most of that new album, as well as some Cuban songs at the end, and a few looser and almost punishingly good flamenco duets with his guitarist, Diego del Morao.
Mr. Del Morao is special. When he played solea, one of the traditional forms, he was tenacious and extravagant, hammering down runs with his fingering hand that ballooned out of the rhythmic patterns; he sounded natural, making decisions from moment to moment, without fetishizing the music’s customary dynamic shifts. Within the larger group he entered its force field without dominating.
The band played mostly in a tense, collective murmur until the end, when the pianist Jami Calabuig worked Cuban montuno figures into the bolero “Dos Gardenias,” and the whole balance shifted: rhythm spoke up, and the music briefly and definitively became non-Andalusian.
Diego El Cigala plays on Thursday at Théâtre Maisonneuve in Montreal, on Friday at the Telus Center in Toronto, and on Saturday at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. Information: elcigala.com.
A version of this review appeared in print on November 3, 2011, on page C5 of the New York edition with the headline: Flamenco Fusion With Argentine Flair Salted by Traditional Modes.Descargar PDF