Did looking for scrap metal in La Latina and shouting “chatarrero” help him project his voice?
by Ann Fox
Photos: A. Fox unless stated otherwise
As if dire world events, new strains of Covid and the end of daylight saving time weren’t enough, El Cigala has to name his latest tour “Veinte Años de Lagrimas”. There were no tears, however, from the audience at Town Hall in Manhattan recently, who sang along, screamed multiple olés, and jumped up and clapped at every signature song. Even El Cigala’s famous “Lagrimas Negras” had a warmth that brought the entire audience to its feet.
How does the kid from Madrid do it? Did looking for scrap metal in La Latina and shouting “chatarrero” help him project his voice? Did wandering around the streets of the Rastro looking for gigs, sipping thick, hot chocolate smooth out his voice? Did leaving Spain and seeking a new life in the Dominican Republic give his voice the soulful longing? I stayed home, drank milk and didn¡t know what scrap metal was. No wonder I can’t sing.
With his Romani roots, El Cigala was destined to sing Flamenco, but you only have to listen to the 2003 recording he made with the Cuban pianist, Bebo Valdéz, to hear how perfectly his voice matches to Cuban rhythms. The pianist at Town Hall was more than up to the job of the now-deceased Bebo and the mix of Flamenco with son and salsa made for a very interesting evening of music. We heard two hours of straight singing from a 54 year-old guy sitting on a stool in a suit. Take that, you prancing, shirtless rock stars.
Luckily, the Flamenco/fusion sound did not include EL Cigala’s foray into tango. For my taste, his rendition of Gardel’s “Por una Cabeza” is not his most heartfelt. But then, a song comparing love for a woman with a colt in a horse race would be a hard song to interpret by
The word on the street is El Cigala ate at La Nacional afterward. (Cigalas?) I think by now he is no longer just a “prawn” and has earned the stature of a lobster and should change his name, but Spaniards are slow to do this. At age seventy, Pedro Moya is still El Niño de la Capea. We Guidepost Galloping Gourmets made haste to Little Spain Market for our usual delicious, post-event, over-priced meal. And of course in honor of El Cigala, we ate… a lobster.
Featured image/Secretaria de la Cultura de la Ciudad de Mexico photostream via Flickr, CC BY-SA2.0. Frame supplied.
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