Three-time Latin Grammy winner El Cigala to sing Hop concert

by Kaina Chen | 11/11/14 3:49pm

Three-time Latin Grammy Award winner Diego El Cigala takes the Spaulding Auditorium stage this evening to perform music from his newest album, “Romance de la Luna Tucumana” (Romance of the Tucumana Moon). The album includes influences from Argentine and Cuban musical traditions as well as Spanish flamenco and Afro-Caribbean jazz.

El Cigala will sing the pieces with Spanish lyrics backed by minimal band accompaniment — a pianist, bass player, percussion players and two guitarists. Instead of flashing lights and loudly amplified sound, El Cigala prefers to cultivate an intimate, conversational setting with his concert audiences, he wrote in an email interview with The Dartmouth translated by Spanish professor Paloma Asensio.

Though some audience members will may not comprehend the lyrics, El Cigala wrote that they should be able to understand the songs’ sentiment.

“Music is a universal language that conveys a feeling that goes beyond language,” he wrote in the email. “The lyrics I sing are from great masters, and tell stories with great force.”

Though he has several songs in mind for this evening’s concert, El Cigala does not have a defined set list, he wrote, preferring to improvise to match the audience’s responses the concert progresses.

Asensio, who is familiar with El Cigala’s music, said she enjoys his work’s expressive quality. A friend recommended El Cigala’s music, and she was hooked.

“Coming from northern Spain, I felt far away from flamenco,” Asensio said. “El Cigala just makes it easier to appreciate flamenco roots, and he makes the music more approachable.”

Born into a family of flamenco musicians in Madrid, El Cigala pursued music at an early age. He was largely influenced by his parents and local music, and played his first performances as a pre-teen, he wrote.

Though flamenco, a type of music and dance genre originating in southern Spain, still serves as inspiration, El Cigala’s recent music incorporates influences from Latin America, creating a sound distinctly his own.

“I am a man of my time, and I am flamenco by nature, and that’s what inspires me,” he wrote. “I think subconsciously I’ve been finding flamenco in all Latin music because it was there at its deepest roots.”

El Cigala began his solo career in 1997 and received his first Latin Grammy for “Lágrimas Negras” (Black Tears), a CD he recorded with Cuban pianist Bebo Valdés, in 2003. He received his second Latin Grammy for “Picasso en Mis Ojos” (Picasso in My Eyes) in 2006 and his third for “Cigala and Tango” in 2010.

El Cigala wrote that he is inspired by melodies and lyrics that tell stories. His most recent album includes influences from Argentine folklore, he wrote.

“I try to immerse myself in [those stories], and bring them to life,” El Cigala wrote.

Asensio said concert-goers expecting a flashy show will be disappointed, though those ready to be moved by El Cigala’s music will not. Music features prominently in Spanish tradition, and that celebratory aspect is important to El Cigala’s work as well, she said.

“The place I come from, music is something that is shared during the holidays and traditional celebrations,” Asensio said. “The type of music used to celebrate is something that is very much alive — it’s important to keep that tradition alive.”

Hop publicity coordinator Rebecca Bailey said that though the artist is not well-known outside Latin music circles, he has a strong following within that group of listeners.

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