Singing his heart out

Spanish vocalist el Cigala always knew he was going to be a musician. "It was my dream since I was a kid," he says.

El Cigala 311 (photo credit: Juan Aldabaldetrecu)
El Cigala 311
(photo credit: Juan Aldabaldetrecu)
Flamenco is one of the most emotive areas ofmusic and dance, and Spanish vocalist Diego Jimenez Ramon Salazar -better known by his stage name el Cigala - certainly wears his heart onhis sleeve in his concerts and in the recording studio. This is evidentin his latest release, Dos Lagrimas, and will surely come through just as strongly at his forthcoming show at Tel Aviv's Mann Auditorium on Tuesday.
The41-year-old el Cigala has certainly paid his dues, earning his keep asa backing vocalist for a slew of top notch flamenco dancers and alsoserving as understudy to iconic singer El Camarón de la Isla (akaCamarón), who died in 1992 at the young age of 41. Like Camarón, elCigala initially honed his singing skills at the university of thestreets - literally - busking all over Spain as well as singing at allkinds of modest venues before stepping into the limelight. "I alwaysknew I was going to be a musician," says el Cigala. "It was my dreamsince I was a kid."
Besides accruing abundant hands-on experience el Cigala alsotapped into the skills and life experience of some greats along theway. "I was mostly influenced by Camarón, but also by my uncle [singer]Rafael Farina, [singer] Ramon el Portogues and many others."
Various cultural influences have also found their way into theel Cigala mix over the years, which, considering the hybrid source ofthe flamenco tradition, is only natural. "Flamenco has its base in fourcultures: one of them is Arabic, and the others are Jewish, Christianand Gypsy," he notes.
Dos Lagrimas takes on board other elements as well, fusing flamenco with various Cuban musical styles and jazz. "Dos Lagrimas is the result of the development of my first contact with Afro Cuban music and Latin jazz, which was with [2003 el Cigala CD] Lagrimas Negras,el Cigala explains. "This is my musical evolution in this area, which Ihave experienced in the last years together with great masters."
ON LAGRIMAS Negras, el Cigala enjoyed the well-seasonedpeerless services of then octogenarian - now in his nineties and stillgoing strong - Cuban Latin jazz pianist Bebo Valdez. "Working with Bebowas also a very essential emotion and process of learning," the singerreflects. "And, of course, it was the best connection to Cuba. It wasthe key which opened a new world to me."
Mindyou, even though he incorporates somewhat extraneous elements in hiswork, el Cigala says he steers clear of any expressly money-spinningendeavors. "My influences aren't commercial. I feed off music that hasroots which, of course, include flamenco and Afro Cuban-Latin jazz -everything that I call music of the soul."
Possibly his most jazz-inflected work andenriching musical experience to date was the 2001 synergy with Americantrumpeter Jerry Gonzalez, which produced the el Cigala's third album, Corren tiempos de alegria."Sharing with Jerry is, to me, [like] receiving teaching from a'catedrático' (master), a living legend." And, it seems, there is morewhere that came from. "With Jerry we are working together to bring outhis new work, which is edited by Cigala Music, and I hope that you willenjoy it soon in Israel," he adds.
This will be el Cigala's second visit here, having shared astage in 2008 with David Broza in the dance-percussion Mayumana show.El Cigala says he is looking forward to being here once more and,possibly, getting into some of the ethnic vibes we have to offer. "Iconfess that I don't know the ladino music good enough. It is a newchallenge which will be sorted out on this and on my next visits toIsrael."
Diego el Cigala will appear at the Mann Auditorium in TelAviv on January 26 at 9 p.m., accompanied by pianist Jumitus, doublebass player Yelsy, percussionist Porrina and guitarist Morao. Fortickets surf to www.tkts.co.il or call (03) 604-5000.