Text & photos: Rafael Manjavacas
Time doesn't pass for Diego Carrasco, the Jerez artista who has lived through all the eras of flamenco, since debuting at the age of 12 in the Fiesta de la Bulería, up to the present, and now celebrating his 50-year career.
“No m’arrecojo” is in itself a declaration of intent, a clear call to attention that he still has a lot to give to the art and to flamenco. “It’s clear as can be, ‘No m’arrecojo’ is a very typical expression of Jerez, and the thing is, it’s a lot of years, something I could never have imagined, but suddenly you realize you’ve lived through all that”.
And Diego has always been right in step with the times he was living. He says he debuted at the first Fiesta de la Bulería at the age of 12 playing for singer Vicente Soto Sordera, and dancer Diego de la Margara. From there, he went to the Caracolá de Lebrija playing for none other than Tío Gregorio of Jerez.
A couple of weeks ago, Pepe Habichuela celebrated the 60th anniversary of his career, and now Diego celebrating 50 years in family, and so young, so hip! “That’s part of my way of being, keeping up with the times”, and young people tell us “music is able to make you feel young forever, with the fortunate advantage of being with the Carrasco family, with my kids, my nieces and nephews who fill me with life and energy, how am I not going to feel young!”
Diego is also aware that “we have to remember where we’re coming from, to look back over our shoulders, see the columns and pillars of flamenco in order not to get lost”, and he recalls that he was born in a representative neighborhood of Jerez, “to be a gypsy from the Santiago neighborhood, making contact with that, with your family, this is the sweetest thing that can happen to you”. In those days, Diego Carrasco was “just another kid” who went to take classes with Rafael del Águila, “we all went there, the Moraos, Paco Cepero, Gerardo Núñez…he was one of the greatest bohemians I’ve known, we all got together there”.
Diego started out as a flamenco guitarist, until he started performing on his own, “I’m a dynamic person, there are things that bore me when they become a daily routine, the guitar has been my soul, but it’s not the instrument I’ve been plugging away at, through the guitar I’ve been able to share things with other kinds of music, open up to other fields, investigate, learn and drink from other fountains”. Something which is obvious, when he joined the Guadalquivir group “I had the honor of being with them, and also recording with Luis, Manglis, I also did things with Miguel Ríos, it was a very sweet movement, so fashionable now, fusion”.
Diego Carrasco is a school unto himself, a way of creating within fusion, although he gives little importance to this, “if you say so, but I don’t want to pin any medals on myself that I don’t deserve, I like the guitar, composing, doing versions of songs, putting music to poetry, I have a lot of interests, maybe that’s what makes me Diego Carrasco”. One way or another, there are many artists nowadays who are reflected in Diego, “there they are, and it seems they do alright”, but he makes a point of the style or school, “it’s pretty hard to be born already knowing how to do things, first you have to investigate, have a basis, and from that point, you can compose and create a personal style, but first you have to drink from the important sources of flamenco, and from the music itself”.
Diego also lived through the golden era of flamenco festivals, when the Antonio Mairena style was the order of the day, “I suppose they saw me as some kind of revolutionary blond kid, but I was lucky enough to share many fiestas with family in Lebrija, I was with Perrate, with Mairena, Tío Borrico, Chocolate…they were in my house, I played the guitar for them, without intending to do so, I’ve been with all the greats”.
As far as recordings, he has a good number of records, the oldest with RCA, “Cantes y Sueños Tomados” (1984), and “Toma que Toma” (1987), and then, with Nuevos Medios, two more classics, “A Tiempo” and “Voz de Referencia”, although he admits he doesn’t remember the exact dates. “I’m a disaster for this, I couldn’t tell you what years they were recorded, I honestly don’t have any of my records at home, I’ve always given them away to people, now it’s impossible to get hold of the first ones”. He says his first day of recording he was in the studio to record songs he’d written for another singer, “and since the singer didn’t show up, they asked me to do it myself, and I hadn’t sung in my life!, I had no choice, so you might say that ever since then I’ve been a flamenco singer-composer, which is a definition I like better”.
Flamenco singer-composer, with rhythm, many call him “the guru of compás”, “they’ve given me many nicknames, that one is from José María Castaño, of Los Caminos del Cante, it really surprised me since his taste in flamenco is very orthodox”. The fact is, rhythm is fundamental in everything Diego does, “it’s something you’re soaking up since childhood, the sense of time, the biorhythm each of us has, it’s decisive to have accompanied the elders in the fiestas, it gets into you”.
Later on, he made two more recordings with Nuevos Medios, “Inquilino del Mundo” and “Mi ADN Flamenco”, and he remembers Mario Pacheco, “god bless him, that was a true revolutionary of flamenco, he knew what he had to give, and he wanted the whole world to know, that’s where a lot of people came from who today are well-known, the seeds were fertile”.
Now, in “No m’arrecojo” , there are 21 pieces from his entire discography, accompanied by a long list of artists, flamenco and otherwise, all to celebrate the 50 years of Diego Carrasco’s career, “they’re the Champions of music” Diego points out. Andrés Calamaro accompanies him in “Libertad”, Alejandro Sanz “Pa mi Manuela”, Joaquín Sabina in “Ratones coloraos”, Estrella Morente “Vida y gloria del gitano”, his Lebrija family for “Alajea” with Dorantes, Pedro Peña, José Valencia and Pedro María Peña. Remedios Amaya in “Nana de Colores” as it was originally recorded, Tomasito and Makandé in “Olina”, Silvia Pérez Cruz “Mariposilla de Colores”, “Poeta de Cai” with Javier Ruibal, Arcángel and Rocío Márquez in “El Sol, la Sal y el Son”, Miguel Poveda in “Alfileres de colores”, Miguel Rios with “Hippytano”, Manuel Carrasco in “Probe de mi”, and many other pieces, with Macaco, the Gipsy Rappers, Maloko, Juan de la Morena, la Chirigota del Selu. “Any many who were left out, which broke my heart, Macanita, Juana la del Pipa, el Pele…” says Diego. “Even Manolo Sanlúcar wanted to participate, playing electric guitar, just think what that would have been”.
It wasn’t an easy project, “bringing so many people together was very difficult, each one with their tours, one going to Argentina, another to Ecuador…but finally, there it is, and I’m very happy about it”. A project that will be presented live in Jerez and in Madrid – for now – November 11th at the Villamarta theater “we’ll be with the family and lots of artists will accompany us, my family is always there, Silvia Pérez Cruz, Javier Ruibal, Farruquito and many more”. After that, on November 29th, the fiesta will be at the Nuevo Apolo theater in Madrid accompanied by his family and many other artists who are part of the project, and will interpret the pieces of “No m’arrecojo” celebrating those 50 years of a unique artist.