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Spanish singer Camilo Sesto dead at 72

Camilo Sesto, a Spanish singer and composer of romantic ballads who scored a string of number one hits in a career that spanned decades, has died aged 72, his family said Sunday.

Spanish singer Camilo Sesto dead at 72
Photo: Victor Rojas

“Dear friends, We are very sorry to inform you that our great and dear artist Camilo Sesto has just left us. Rest in peace,” his family wrote on Sesto's official twitter account. 

Spanish public television TVE said he died from cardiac arrest at a Madrid hospital. Sesto, real name Camilo Blanes Cortes, sang in two pop bands during the 1960s before recording his first album “Algo De Mí”, or “Something of Me”, in 1971.

He went on to sell over 70 million albums, making him one of the most famous Spanish singers of all time.

His notable hits include “¿Quieres ser mi amante?”, or “Do you want to be my lover?”, “El Amor de mi Vida”, or “The Love of my Life”, and “Perdoname”, or “Forgive me”.

While most of Sesto's music was in Spanish, he also recorded in English, German, Japanese, Catalan, and Portuguese.

As a composer Sesto wrote songs for top singers such as Spanish pop star Miguel Bose and Mexican crooner Jose Jose. In 1975 Sesto starred in Madrid in the Spanish version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's rock musical “Jesus Christ Superstar”.

“With his genuine voice, as a singer and composer, he managed to be one of the most loved and universal artists. Spain and all of Latin America lament the loss of Camilo Sesto,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted.

Sesto was gearing up for a US tour with performances scheduled for later this year in Miami, New York and Los Angeles.

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MUSIC

Meet the Spanish rapper bringing flamenco and bossa nova into hip-hop

Spanish rapper C. Tangana was taking a big risk when he started mixing old-fashioned influences like flamenco and bossa nova into his hip-hop -- but it's this eclectic sound that has turned him into a phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic.

Meet the Spanish rapper bringing flamenco and bossa nova into hip-hop
Spanish rapper Anton Alvarez known as 'C. Tangana' poses in Madrid on April 29, 2021. Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP

The 30-year-old has emerged as one of the world’s biggest Spanish-language stars since his third album “El Madrileno” — the Madrilenian — came out in February. That ranks him alongside his superstar ex-girlfriend Rosalia, the Grammy-winning Catalan singer with whom he has co-written several hits.

C. Tangana, whose real name is Anton Alvarez Alfaro, has come a long way since a decade ago when he became known as a voice of disillusioned Spanish youth in the wake of the financial crisis.These days his rap is infused with everything from reggaeton and rumba to deeply traditional styles from Spain and Latin America, with a voice often digitised by autotune.

“It’s incredible that just when my music is at its most popular is exactly when I’m doing something a bit more complex, more experimental and less
trendy,” he told AFP in an interview.

And he is unashamed to be appealing to a wider audience than previously: his dream is now to make music “that a young person can enjoy in a club or someone older can enjoy at home while cooking”.

‘People are tired’

The rapper, who sports a severe semi-shaved haircut and a pencil moustache, has worked with Spanish flamenco greats including Nino De Elche, Antonio Carmona, Kiko Veneno, La Hungara and the Gipsy Kings.

In April he brought some of them together for a performance on NPR’s popular “Tiny Desk Concert” series, which has already drawn nearly six million
views on YouTube.

Shifting away from trap, one of rap’s most popular sub-genres, and venturing into a more traditional repertoire was a dangerous move — especially for someone with a young fanbase to whom rumba, bossa nova and bolero sound old-fashioned.

“I think people are tired. They’ve had enough of the predominant aesthetic values that have previously defined pop and urban music,” he said.

Parts of his latest album were recorded in Latin America with Cuban guitarist Eliades Ochoa of Buena Vista Social Club, Uruguayan
singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler, Mexican folk artist Ed Maverick and Brazil’s Toquinho, one of the bossa nova greats.

“What struck me most everywhere I went was the sense of tradition and the way people experienced the most popular music, and I don’t mean pop,” he said.

A new direction

C. Tangana started out in 2006 rapping under the name Crema. When the global economic crisis swept Spain a few years later, hard-hitting trap was
the perfect way to voice the angst of his generation. But after more than a decade of rapping, things changed.

“When I was heading for my 30s, I hit this crisis, I was a bit fed up with what I was doing… and decided to give voice to all these influences that I
never dared express as a rapper,” he said.

The shift began in 2018 with “Un veneno” (“A poison”) which came out a year after his big hit “Mala mujer” (“Bad woman”).

And there was a return to the sounds of his childhood when he used to listen to Spanish folk songs at home, raised by a mother who worked in
education and a journalist father who liked to play the guitar. The Latin American influences came later.

“It started when I was a teenager with reggaeton and with bachata which were played in the first clubs I went to, which were mostly Latin,” he said.

Studying philosophy at the time, he wrote his first raps between stints working in call centres or fast-food restaurants.

As to what comes next, he doesn’t know. But one thing he hopes to do is collaborate with Natalia Lafourcade, a Mexican singer who dabbles in folk, rock and pop — another jack of all musical trades.

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