As it was easy to predict, Diego The Cigala it is perfectly unpredictable. About this master of transversal flamenco singing it is necessary to communicate that it releases new album, Cigala sings to Mexico, which puts an end to four years of record silence. But we rule out the option of a conventional talk, because his verb is as untamed as that curly hair that shakes and soaks every now and then. We lose all hope that the conversation will keep order and let ourselves be entangled, in a short and surely prepandemic distance, by the liturgy of a person who is almost confused from the cradle with his character. Or maybe the thing comes from before. “My mother always explained that she never stopped kicking her in the stomach,” he notes between pipes.
It is difficult to avoid physical contact with him, a close hand-in-hand: Diego Ramón Jiménez Salazar, a 51-year-old from Madrid, beats each statement with repeated (and very rhythmic, slaps) on the knee of his interlocutor. The Cigala has stoically endured the promotional photo sessions for the beer brand that sponsors its first master class in the capital. He now devotes himself to chatter, his favorite art after singing. And, like the elf in flamenco, verbal occurrence can emerge at any time.
Question. They just served us an 18 year old whiskey. Is it always taken care of that well?
Answer. And now! I tend to settle for little because I’ve never had anything. Well, I rectify: I have always had the love of God, who is the one who makes and unmakes, the one who has everything in me. I have had a bad time in life and without Him I would not be talking to you right now.
P. How do you feel it has helped you?
R. In many things, starting with this wonderful childhood, with a mother who sang like flowers and a father who appeared at home with Camarón. It was my father who worked hardest for me to sing. When he saw me coming to play football on the street, with my legs full of mud, he hit me on the back of the head.
It’s an album I’ve been looking for for 20 years
P. Would he have been a good footballer?
R. Very good. They called me “fox feathers” because I had legs like that [s’arremanga el camal], very scarred. But I have been partying at home with Diego Armando Maradona, who is my colleague, passing us an orange with his foot, as if it were a ball.
P. You said that God protects him a lot, but it seems that now he has us a little abandoned …
R. That of the pandemic is a lesson for the world, so that we humans are better people, we help each other and there is not so much evil, racism or wars. We look only at the material and do not remember that Jesus fed on bitter leaves.
P. Has the coronavirus affected you in the preparation of this latest album?
R. Of course. I cried a lot. We were recording at Sony Studios in Mexico when it all exploded, so I had to finish the vocals from my house in Punta Cana [el cantaor viu en aquesta zona de la República Dominicana des del 2013]. In solitude, but with the love of God. And with the pride that my music serves my children as a witness to the truth.
P. Has it been worth something to us all we are suffering in recent months?
R. We have to learn a great lesson from it and I don’t say it in an apocalyptic tone. The plagues are already coming out in the Holy Scriptures and this is an opportunity for us to learn to be good. We will move forward, with God’s help, and we will remember this as a nightmare. But let it be soon, because all my comparisons are going very badly.
Without God, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now
Suddenly, Diego Ramón Jiménez collapses and can’t hold back the tears. He gestures here and there so that no one enters the dressing room or looks at him, besieged by a terrible shame. By the time he regains his composure, his reddened eyes are a poem. “It’s just that I remember a lot of my flamenco,” he apologizes. “I grew up in Los Canasteros, Manolo Caracol’s tablao, and people around the world call me to say, ‘Diego, we don’t even have food.’ If both the musicians and the gypsy people live up to date … ”.
P. Remember your first recital after the confinement break?
R. On July 15 in Burgos. I will never forget it. After four months locked up, amidst laughter, tears and depression, I felt like the happiest person on the planet. It was a concert, not for nothing.
P. And he had to take the opportunity to premiere the new Mexican repertoire …
A. Of course. It’s an album I’ve been looking for for 20 years, when I performed with a guitar at the Teatro Principal in Mexico City and they welcomed me with open arms. I needed to record Bitter truth, because it goes a long way with my life. O Ashes. They are stories I have lived, pains I have felt. I know what they go for.
The teacher interrupts the conversation, this time uncomfortable because, between the talk and the heat, he feels “his mouth drier than an espadrille.” They offer him water, but he does not contemplate this solution. “Doctors know there is a better remedy,” he smiles. He covers his eyes, like a child in a mischief, and liquidates the glass of whiskey in one gulp. All right.
He would have lived comfortably in the Roman era, wearing a toga and with his collars uncovered
P. By now, in addition to flamenco, he has performed rancheras, boleros, tangos and even salsa. Is he considered an ambitious artist?
R. More than ambitious, selfish. I love music so much that I want to be the master and lord of everything, I hate to hear a song that doesn’t satisfy me, that makes me squeak. But I don’t aspire to big things, I’m more prepared to be empty ship than full. As long as my children have health, freedom, and the love of God, what more can I ask for?
P. Man, you’ve already done many miles. Now things must not go wrong for him.
R. I’ve done miles, yes. Specifically from the age of 14, when I told my father that I was going to London with Paco Peña but we were actually embarking in Japan … One of the three guitarists who accompanied my uncle Rafael Farina on the tablao of the Arco de Cuchilleros was from there, Makoto. A Japanese speaker.
P. How much rope do you have left?
R. I would like to die singing, more or less like what happened to my uncle Juanito Valderrama. Participate in a beautiful tribute and then, yes, I had a few final days in a good bed, savoring the last pears of water, a grape. I would have liked to live in Roman times, with a toga and bare collars.