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Posted on Tue, Nov 1, 2011 : 5:48 a.m.

Diego El Cigala bringing flamenco sounds to the Michigan Theater

By Susan Isaacs Nisbett


Diego El Cigala plays the Michigan Theater on Saturday.

What is the essence of flamenco? According to flamenco super-star Ramon Jimenez Salazar, aka Diego El Cigala, being Gitano is key. So is pain.

“Flamenco has to be suffered,'' he said in a New York Times interview with Josh Kun. ''There is no important, powerful flamenco artist who has not suffered in their lives. Someone who has had everything handed to them on a silver platter cannot perform flamenco. How do you convey emotions from within your heart if you don't know what suffering is? Flamenco is a lament. If there is no evidence of pain in your heart, there is no song.''


Diego El Cigala

  • Who: Famous flamenco singer.
  • What: El Cigala & Tango.
  • Where: Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St.
  • When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
  • How much: $18-$44, UMS Ticket Office in the Michigan League, (734) 764-2538, and online at
Diego El Cigala has plenty of songs—he “moved up front”—solo, as the main attraction, no more a singer for flamenco dancers—a long time ago. And the pain and suffering are all on his side—for listeners, the main sentiment seems to be pleasure when he performs. Ann Arbor audiences get to experience his artistry first-hand when he appears at the Michigan Theater Saturday under University Musical Society auspices, on a rare North American tour. The show he presents here, “Cigala & Tango,” has its roots in a show he did at Buenos Aires’ Teatro Gran Rex in 2010. Although he is known as a proponent of authentic flamenco, he has also been a pioneer of flamenco fusion, bringing it into contact with Latin American musical forms. Notably, he has collaborated with Cuban piano great Bebo Valdes - their CD, “Lagrimas Negras” (Black Tears), with its nine classic Latin American ballads, was a huge hit in El Cigala’s native Spain. New York Times critic Ben Ratliff named it 2003’s Album of the Year.”

At his Gran Rex concert—and on the album and DVD that came out of that concert—El Cigala and his Spanish and Argentinian fellow musicians reviewed classic and contemporary repertoire of the tango. The press described the evening as “Flamenco and Tango Shake Hands.” It saw the flamenco singer from Madrid offering a flamenco interpretation of the music of Gardel, Astor Piazzolla and Atahualpa Yupanqui, with classic tango pieces, such as “Tus ojos se cerraron” and “El dia que me quieras” and contemporary pieces including “Garganta con arena.” He appears here accompanied by musicians on bass, piano, percussion, violin and guitar.

Even if the dancers are not on stage in this concert, they are firmly in mind and melody.