El Cabrero, flamenco cantaor. Interview

“It’s really clear to me that I’m a flamenco cantaor who occasionally sings tango”

El Cabrero 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 them …

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 up entirely.

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 Argentina?

“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”

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 private company?

“I want 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 me.

And which one will be released first?

Whatever Alberto says.

Further information

2008 Caja Madrid Flamenco Festival. El Cabrero • Mayte Martín • Calixto Sánchez. Review, photos and video



  CD. El Cabrero
"Por los caminos del viento"

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  CD. El Cabrero
"París 94"

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  CD. El Cabrero
"Grandes éxitos"

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CD. El Cabrero
"Que corra de boca en boca"

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El Cabrero
Biography, discography, audio clips and readers' comments





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