This week we are going to take a look at two more cantaores who are enjoying considerable success both commercially and, in our opinion, artistically. Two very different artists who have won Grammy Awards this year. Both of whom have deep Flamenco roots but, like so many of our favourite artists, have looked beyond traditional horizons and tried their hand at other genres. Niña Pastori’s brand of light, pop-tinged Flamenco has made her famous and led to her being invited to feature on many more mainstream artists’ projects but she still conserves a fine Flamenco voice and considerable “duende” when singing some of the more traditional palos. Diego “El Cigala” draws on a deeper Flamenco heritage and both his voice and delivery have at times been compared favourably with the great Camarón himself and yet he has been involved in at least two of the most memorable cross genre projects of the last decade. We hope you enjoy finding out a little more about them or revisiting their work.
María Rosa García García was born in San Fernando in Cadiz in 1978. Her mother is a gypsy Cantaora known as “La Pastori de la Isla” and from the age of four La Niña was accompanying her at performances in the local area. She learnt the basics from her mother and at eight years old was already convinced that she wanted to follow her footsteps. By the age of twenty she was a fully fledged star, with her song “Cartita de Amor” being one of the best selling singles of 1998:
She was only twelve when the Cantaor José Monge Cruz “Camarón de la Isla” introduced her at the Teatro Andalucía in Cadiz. He was so smitten that half way through a concert he asked her to sing with him. In the early years Camarón was her mentor but it was the move to Madrid at her mother’s insistence that really led to her career taking off. At 17 she recorded her first album, which was far more pop than Flamenco but opened many doors for her. Not least the chance to work with the singer song writer Alejandro Sanz who was enjoying the most successful period of his own career. He decided to write for her and even moved down to San Fernando to be closer to her musical roots in order to make sure his songs would really suit her. Here they are together in a performance from 1998:
Throughout her career she has worked with artists such as José el Francés and Vicente Amigo as well as contributing to many of the tribute albums recorded in memory of Camarón. In 2002 she started a relationship with Julio Jiménez Borja “Chaboli” and by the end of the year they had married. Here she is singing “Amor de San Juan”:
In 2006 she released an album of cover versions called Joyas Prestadas (Borrowed Jewels). Here she is singing “Hoy Igual Que Ayer” originally recorded by the legendary seventies and eighties Rumba Gitana group Los Chichos:
2007 saw the release of the follow up “Joyas Propias” (My Own Jewels) which was a collection of songs she had sung throughout her career so far and in 2008 she had her first daughter who she named Pastora after her maternal grandmother. In 2009 her album “Esperando Verte” won the Grammy Latino for best Flamenco album.
In the introduction to the first clip Niña Pastori explains that at the age of twenty she wanted to make records with a group and sing a little outside the traditional Flamenco canon. She says that maybe when she reaches the age of forty she’ll want to sing a purer, more traditional Flamenco and this seems to be where she’s headed. Here she is in a clip from 2010 singing a far more traditional Bulerías – “Sobre La Arena”:
She has sold over two million albums over 15 years, her brand of pop-tinged Flamenco or Flamenco-tinged pop having established her as a leading and influential figure on the current scene, but we detect a return to more traditional styles that will be interesting to see unfold. As we mentioned earlier, La Niña was born in Cadiz: what better way, then, to end this brief look at her work than to listen to some Alegrías from a live TV performance from last year? “Cuando Miro Tus Ojos”:
DIEGO EL CIGALA
The Cantaor Diego Ramón Jiménez Salazar, known as Diego “El Cigala”, was born in the Rastro neighbourhood of Madrid in 1968. His uncle was the Flamenco Cantaor Rafael Farina. He is widely considered to be one of the true heirs of Camarón and his voice bears favourable comparison with the legendary Cantaor from la Isla de San Fernando. Diego grew up in Madrid and at the age of twelve was winning both TV talent shows and local Young Flamenco awards. In 1991 he took part in Paco Peña’s Misa Flamenca and in 1998 he released his first solo album with David Amaya, Tomatito and Paquete on guitar.
Here are some Rumbas Gitanas from that album – “Undebel”(which means, “my friend up there” or, more simply, “god”, in the Gypsy language Caló):
In 2001 his album “Entre Vareta y Canasta”, produced by Javier Limón, was released with the backing of a number of actors, musicians and other personalities. The video for the title track was produced by the Oscar winning film maker Fernando Trueba. He was accompanied on guitar by Vicente Amigo and el Niño Josele. Here are some Tangos from the album:
The following year “Corren Tiempos de Alegría” was released. Again produced by Javier Limón, it featured Niño Josele on guitar and special collaborations with the Cuban Jazz pianist Bebo Valdés. His next release was a live recording from the Teatro Real in Madrid with the sole accompaniment of Niño Josele on guitar:
Here is a Bulerías from “Corren Tiempos de Alegría”:
In 2002, Fernando Trueba produced “Lágrimas Negras”, which brought together the talents of Bebo Valdés and El Cigala. It was released to overwhelming critical and popular acclaim in 2003. The album won a Grammy and a veritable hatful of international awards. The New York Times declared it Album of the Year in the Latin Music Category and Diego and Bebo played to packed houses in New York, London, Tokyo, La Habana, Buenos Aires and countless other cities. The album went triple platinum in Spain and was an enormous success in many countries where music in Spanish rarely bothers the score keepers.
Here is a clip from “Lágrimas Negras” – the Bolero “Se Me Olvidó Que Te Olvidé”:
This was followed by a tribute to Picasso, “Picasso en Mis Ojos” and in 2008 “Dos Lágrimas”, which revisited the Caribbean this time in the company of a whole range of artists including Yelsi Heredia, Rubalcaba, Jumitus and Tata Güines. Here is another collaboration from this time with Rosario Flores:
In 2009 the Argentinian singer Andrés Calamaro invited Diego to sing on a project he had been working on for some time. An Argentinian Tango and Flamenco fusion. Diego accepted and took the plunge. The end result was the extraordinary “Cigala y Tango” recorded at the the Gran Rex Theatre in Buenos Aires. He has since said that he was so nervous when performing that if the audience at the Gran Rex (a notoriously demanding venue) hadn’t applauded at the end of the first number he would probably not have been able to carry on. He needn’t have worried: they were applauding wildly before the first number had finished. Here is that first number (albeit from a different performance). The tango “Garganta con Arena”, written in memory of the legendary Tango singer Roberto “El Polaco” Goyaneche:
And here, to end is his reading of Carlos Gardel’s “Tomo y Obligo” from that night in El Gran Rex: