El Cabrero, flamenco cantaor. Interview
“It’s really clear
to me that I’m a flamenco cantaor who occasionally
returns to the record market two-fold. Now independent
from the record industry, he uses his own label
Atípicos y Utópicos to release
a new encounter with Argentinean tango, ‘Por
los caminos del viento’, and a flamenco
cante recital recorded live in Paris in 1994.
In this interview, included in the booklet of
the tango album, he explains his attachment
to the music from Buenos Aires and lets us in
on what his upcoming projects will be.
Interview © Atípicos y Utópicos
(Francisco Suárez. Seville, May 2008)
Translation: Joseph Kopec/Flamenco-world.com
Over ten years ago you recorded
your first tango album, ‘Sin Remache’, highly
esteemed by the specialized critics as well as the experts
and now, when enthusiasts were expecting a new flamenco
album, you surprise them again with this ‘Por los
caminos del viento’. What reasons have led you to
give this project top priority?
Reasons? I felt like it. I sing flamenco
all year long but tango, which I like and love so much,
I can’t even caress unless it’s by taking it
to an album because I’m not going to start singing
tango at a flamenco festival … I’m not an artist
who plans out his projects well ahead of time; if something
comes out of me from within, that’s the time to say
it. Flamenco is like a second skin, I always wear it, but
tango is also a part of my most intense experiences, it
isn’t a passing fad for me; I’m familiar with
it because it’s accompanied me since my childhood
and none of its tales or characters seem strange to me.
Your relationship with tango is
unusual at the very least. What is the story of this following?
I used to have a transistor radio and when
I was just a boy I listened to Gardel… How wasn’t
I going to fall in love with tango, or with Gardel, which
is the same thing? Then I found out that at El Barranco,
the bus station in Seville, there was a little machine where,
inserting money, you could listen to Zorzal over and over
again and so I left my family and went down to Seville and
until I had squandered all the money I had, except for the
twenty-five pesetas it used to cost to get back to town,
I kept on listening to ‘Mano a mano’ and ‘Cuesta
abajo’ and by means of coins, I gradually learned
But in that period were you already
singing flamenco… or just tango…?
To me, flamenco is something natural. I’ve
sung it since I was a boy, it’s my music and words
cannot describe what cante jondo means to me, but …
and tango? Doesn’t it hurt? For many years I’ve
only sung tangos at family gatherings or among friends,
but back in the late nineties I took part in the Granada
Tango Festival and since then I’ve never given it
And what moved the organizers of
the Tango Festival to hire a flamenco cantaor who had never
publicly demonstrated his facet as a tango singer?
Well, I don’t know how Tato Rébora
found out about my hobby … I don’t think I ever
asked him … The fact is that he came to my house to
bring me some invitations, and since he came with the musicians,
we improvised a few tangos… and he offered for me
to take part as an artist: that’s what happened. I’d
never sung tango with accompaniment, not even with guitar
… We held three or four rehearsals … when we
came out on stage, with the insecurity involved in what
hasn’t been ‘played out’, neither the
musicians nor I could imagine that the audience was going
to bid us farewell amidst ovations … Later on, I took
part in the Tango Festival again another year and at the
World Tango Summit, in Granada… and then came the
album ‘Sin Remache’...
A record which most tango enthusiasts
consider a gem … What repercussion did it have in
not an artist who plans out his projects well ahead
of time; if something comes out of me from within,
that’s the time to say it”
Well, too much for the promotion which
was done there for it by the record company, which was none.
The few copies which reached Argentina and Uruguay were
sent there by friends or by fans. And with so few means,
they managed for the album to be played and to be liked
in the land of tango. I have to give special thanks to Chema
Forte who thought to take a record to Mario Pereyra, of
LV3. He liked it so much that for some time it was one of
the most-played tango records and they’re still playing
it today. People couldn’t believe I was a flamenco
cantaor and Chema had to go and explain in an interview
just who that Cabrero was … I was also interviewed
several times by phone and I was congratulated for the album.
Then I was invited to take part in the Buenos Aires Tango
Festival, an honor for me, but I couldn’t accept because
you couldn’t do cante jondo there, and it’s
really clear to me that I’m a flamenco cantaor who
occasionally sings tango.
This record is released by the
label Atípicos y Utópicos. What do you expect
from this new company?
Well, the label is ours, we’ve registered
it precisely in order to be able to publish the albums I
make in the future and also those of my son Zapata. Means
haven’t been skimped on with regards to the contents
of the album -production, musicians, studio, pack - but
the promotion will have to be done modestly because there’s
no public money here, or patrons, or influential friends
Considering the current situation
of the record companies, bringing out an album with your
own means is a heroic deed. Why didn’t you resort,
as is usually done, to the public administration or to some
absolute independence in my career; I’m interested
in the crowd’s support and nothing else”
Because it’s my way of understanding
this. I want absolute independence in my career; I’m
interested in the crowd’s support and nothing else.
If more people can’t be reached due to a lack of means,
it’s a shame, because I think the record deserves
to be listened to. But it’s the price to pay for continuing
up the hill of nonconformity …
How is ‘Por los caminos del
viento’ different from ‘Sin remache’?
Is it perhaps less ‘Gardel-style’?
No. I have Gardel stuck in the ‘feeling’
and I try to follow him, not to imitate him because he was
inimitable. Nobody has ever sung like him, or even ever
come close, but he invites those of us who follow him to
sing well. Every song on the album, except for ‘Los
ejes de mi carreta’, was made popular by Carlitos.
The difference with ‘Sin remache’ is that here
I have a milonga and Creole songs and the guitar plays a
greater role than on the previous one. The producer, Daniel
Giraudo, is the same and the spirit, too; I’ve sung
songs I like without bearing in mind how commercial or how
popular they are … ‘Naipe marcao’, ‘Secreto’,
‘Murmullos’, ‘Hopa, hopa, hopa’,
‘El bulín de la calle Ayacucho’, for
example, are known by few people but I think they’re
wonderful … In reality, the only really popular songs
are ‘Mi Buenos Aires querido’, ‘La canción
de Buenos Aires’, ‘Guitarra mía’,
and of course, ‘Los ejes de mi carreta’ which
is a milonga with tango accents more than folk ones.
The next album, tango or flamenco?
Flamenco and there’ll be two. One
that I’ve been writing for some time and another which
is going to be a great pleasure because I’m going
to make it with my friend Alberto Cortez, to me, the best
singer-songwriter of all time in the Spanish language. He
thought we could do something together and I’m going
to put myself in his hands for him to do what he wants with
And which one will be released
Whatever Alberto says.