Diego el Cigala

World Music and Jazz


Spain has produced many thrilling flamenco singers, but none so brilliant or innovative as Diego El Cigala.

He was born on a cold December day in 1968, on Provisiones Street near Madrid’s famed flea market, El Rastro. Diego’s mother, Aurora Salazar Motos, sister of the great musician Rafael Farina from the Spanish city of Salamanca, did not pursue a professional career as a flamenco singer despite her great talent. His Andalusian father, José de Córdoba, made a living at popular tablaos (flamenco clubs) such as Torres Bermejas, El Corral de la Pacheca, and Arco de Cuchilleros.

Ramón Jiménez Salazar is the name shown on El Cigala’s passport. His commonly used name of  “Diego” is the result of a family dispute while at the baptismal font. “El Cigala” was a nickname given to him by gypsy guitarists the Losada brothers – and not, as it is often said, by famed flamenco singer Camarón during one of their first tours together.

Little Diego spent his time running after a soccer ball, but whenever he heard flamenco he would drop everything just to listen. Soon he started to sing for dancers, invited by well-known artists such as Cristóbal Reyes, Mario Maya, Manolete, Farrruco, Manuel Camacho and El Güito, among others. As well, musicians such as Camarón, Tomatito, Gerardo Nuñez and Vicente Amigo began to collaborate with him on their recordings.

In 1997, he started his solo career with the album Undebel, produced by David Amaya. This album featured guitarists Antón Jiménez, David Amaya, Paquete, and Tomatito.

Three years later he produced his second album, Entre Vareta y Canasta. Award-winning Spanish director Fernando Trueba (Belle Epoque, Calle 54) filmed the video of the title track from the album.

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“Whatever it was, though, it must have worked: el Cigala delivered two long sets that held even the non-Spanish-speakers in the crowd spellbound. For those fluent in the language, it must have approximated a religious experience”

Alexander Varty

The Georgia Straight