I’ve tried above all else to make a record that sounds like Moisés Vargas
The Huelva singer just released his first recording, “Lo que mi Alma Calla”, a journey from the most traditional flamenco forms, to current singing that seeks “to reach the heart”.
Interview: Sara Arguijo
Photos: Fidel Meneses
To his talent, his hard work, the prizes he’s been winning at festivals and contests and the support of producer Chemi López (La Droguería Music), Moisés Vargas owes Lo que mi alma calla, his first recording with which he hopes to find a niche in the world of flamenco and show he has an identity of his own.
A meticulous piece of work backed up by the guitar of Niño Seve, and which travels through the history of flamenco singing with tientos in which the aesthetics of Gaspar de Utrera, Morente, Lebrijano and Camarón can be detected; the soleá with verses by Manuel Bohóquez, the siguiriyas, the malagueña of Chacón and taranta. In addition to two original compositions of the Córdoba guitarist, alegrías and bulerías, with wonderful melodic details from Antonio Jaraqueño in Huelva forms dedicated to Niño Miguel. The record closes out with a version of the zambra La Tana popularized by Carmen Amaya with the piano of Antonio Sánchez.
-How did you become interested in flamenco?
My interest began when I was a child. There’s really no one in my family devoted to flamenco. An uncle who’s an amateur, but he never sang professionally. The thing is, being a gypsy family, flamenco was always present at parties and has always been a part of our lives. It was from the age of 17 or 18 that I began to take it seriously.
-Among your maestros you name Arcángel, Esperanza Fernández and her father Curro, El Pele… What did each one of them teach you?
From each one I tried to take the best, whatever at that point in time I believed to be the most enriching for my voice. It’s true that lately I’m close to El Pele and he has a wonderful thing which is that each time he interprets a verse he does it differently. And with wisdom and knowledge. He is a true master and a person who has struggled throughout much of his career. Maybe that’s why he’s the one who has influenced me the most, also thanks to his personality, experience, the anecdotes I heard. You learn by just listening to these great interpreters speak.
“The important thing in an artist is that you can identify the voice. We’ve worked hard to find a personality”
-What was it like working on this first recording? What emotions did you aim to convey?
I tried to make a record that would sound like Moisés Vargas, that people would recognize me. Obviously I’m very young and have my idols, but the important thing in an artist is that you can identify the voice. Furthermore, it’s a record in which I see myself represented because there are the nine pieces we selected, but behind each one is an intense process that took place to find that personality we were looking for.
-And what would you say is that Moisés Vargas personality?
I’ve always looked towards the classic singers like Tomás Pavón, la Niña de los Peines, Mairena, Caracol…and from there on, from that legacy is where I’ve sought my own personality.
-For your debut, you had the production of Chemi López and the guitar of Niño Seve. What was that experience like?
It was very hard, but very satisfactory because these are people who make it easy for you, great professionals you learn a lot from. I have to thank Chemi for his support because he had faith in me from the beginning, and for the important work he’s doing with young people. The important thing is that the three of us accomplished the task at hand.
-A serious recording that practically contains all the forms.
Yes, the idea was to cover from the most traditional forms, to current flamenco singing delving into a very ample range. Everything from siguiriyas, bulerías, alegrías, soleá…to a zambra with piano, which is Carmen Amaya’s version which I tried to adapt to my own ways.
-Nowadays there are many young people defending the most classic sort of flamenco (El Purili, Manuel de la Tomasa, Boleco, María Terremoto…) What do you think of this turn of the tide?
I think it’s a very positive thing, flamenco continues to evolve on a daily basis. I respect everyone doing other things, but traditional flamenco is my thing. Of course within the traditional vein, you can do something a bit fresher, but basically I’m in the classic line.
“I respect everyone doing other things, but traditional flamenco is my thing”
-You are precisely one of the young people who has stood out thanks to your participation in festivals and contests. How important are those things to become known in the world of flamenco?
Contests opened a lot of doors for me to get my name out there. In fact, Chemi found out about me thanks to Antonio García when I won a contest in Alcalá de Guadaíra, so it’s important. Although it’s true I’ve always chosen carefully where to compete and where not to.
-Nevertheless, despite the recognition in these circles and catching the attention of flamenco followers, is it hard to make a living?
It’s a difficult world, but enriching. Most of all, when you sing what you feel and express it to the listener. What I’m aiming for in this record is that. To open more doors and be able to make a living with this.
-In the time you’ve been singing, what’s the nicest compliment anyone has given you?
Well, let me tell you an anecdote… Once when I was in Málaga, a blind woman heard me sing, and then came to the dressing-room to say I’d transmitted so much that she felt as if she knew me through my singing…from going straight into my soul. Things like that are the reward for this work.
-What would you like to achieve with this album?
When you connect with the audience, you’re having a good night and manage to transmit what you want, it’s a very powerful feeling. What I’m looking for with flamenco is to arrive directly to people’s hearts. Of course you have to study and know the song-forms, but at the same time you have to free yourself from that and transmit. That’s my main concern.