Flamenco Superstar El Cigala Debuts at Walt Disney Concert Hall

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[youtube width=”575″ height=”360″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmlN42heWQI[/youtube]

First there was Camarón de la Isla (“Shrimp of the Island”), named because he was skinny and taunted for his complexion being as white as the albino “ghost shrimp” found in the mud volcanoes along the Gulf of Cádiz. He didn’t live long, dying of cancer in 1992 at the age of 42, but was already hailed then as the greatest cantaor (singer) of all time and credited with revolutionizing the centuries-old flamenco tradition.

Now, flamenco has a new star with a similarly crustaceous nickname, “El Cigala” (“The Prawn”), who has quickly ascended to his own musical heights. Unlike the fair-skinned Camarón, Diego El Cigala is a striking figure with his dark, olive complexion, reminiscent of the original Rajasthani gypsies. I first discovered El Cigala in Seville, Spain, at WOMEX (World Music Expo) back in 2003, when he performed with Cuban legendary pianist, Bebo Valdés, with whom he recorded the Grammy Award-winning album, Lagrimas Negras,  named after the famous 1929 song by Cuban composer Miguel Matamoros.

The late, great Paco de Lucía, who did such spectacular work with Camarón, had very high praise for this new, young flamenco star: “Diego has one of the most beautiful flamenco voices of our time, a voice of sweetness that flows over everything.” With his gypsy rajo (rasp), El Cigala exudes his own fiery intensity, leaving audiences completely transfixed.

Romance de la Luna Tucumána (2013) (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Like Camarón before him, El Cigala has further stretched the boundaries of nuevo flamenco, exploring Cuban, Afro-Caribbean, rock, jazz, salsa, and most recently tango. His passion for tango was instilled at an early age when his father returned home from a trip to Argentina and sang him tangos that he had heard there. The 2010 album, Cigala & Tango, is a flamenco take on Argentinian tango classics by Ástor Piazzolla and Carlos Gardel, infusing both tango and flamenco with El Cigala’s own brand of unbridled passion.

Recorded and produced within a mere three weeks, his latest Romance de la Luna Tucumána (Universal Music Latino Entertainment) received a Latin Grammy Award for Best Tango Album in 2013. It celebrates El Cigala’s love for tango, his deep admiration for the late Mercedes Sosa (Tucumán was her provincial birthplace) and the sociopolitical spirit of nueva canción, and his love for Argentina. Collaborating with Spanish electric guitar virtuoso Diego García (who produced the album), known as “El Twanguero” for his signature guitar “twang,” longtime Cuban double bassist, Yelsy Heredia, and Cuban percussionist, ChanguitoRomance de la Luna Tucumána is an “exotic fusion” of Andalusian sound, tango, Afro-Caribbean jazz, blues, and rock.

Next Saturday, November 8, marks El Cigala’s Walt Disney Concert Hall debut, which I will be attending. A full house is expected, so be sure to get your tickets while you still can. Click here to purchase tickets.

Click for El Cigala’s full tour schedule

El Cigala covers César Isella and Armando Tejada Gómez’s classic “Canción de las Simples Cosas” (“Song of the Simple Things”).

[youtube width=”575″ height=”360″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXHyeaUdgmg[/youtube]

Mercedes Sosa’s rendition of “Canción de las Simples Cosas” from her 2009 album, Siempre—Una Vída en Canciónes.

[youtube width=”575″ height=”360″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Potimp3kSuM[/youtube]

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