Tuesday 2 July 2019

What Styles of Music Are Popular in Spain?

Popular music in Spain runs the gamut, from classical guitar to hip-hop. Spaniards continue to celebrate homegrown musical genres such as flamenco, zarzuela and fandango, but also embrace religious music and multi-culture tunes, including Latin pop. Superstars like Julio Iglesias have recorded some the most famous Spanish songs, but up-and-coming groups like 7 Notas 7 Colores continue to add fresh, new music to the world stage. No visit to Spain is complete without exploring its rich musical heritage.


Fandango combines music and dance as a form of traditional Spanish courtship. Developed in Spain and Portugal, the genre swept Europe in the 18th century and remains a trademark of Spanish society.

Men and women dance the fandango in sweeping, exaggerated motions, filled with drama and emotion. The music and dance begin in slow rhythm, before increasing in tempo to the sounds of guitars, castanets, violins, cellos and clapping hands. Some fandango dances feature two men in a competition of skills.


Jota music and dance closely resembles the sound and movements of fandango. Jota dancers extend their arms high above their heads, clicking castanets, while dancing in dramatic fashion to present stories of love and humor. Music historians speculate that jota originated as a fertility dance. It remains popular in Spain and Mexico’s Yucatán department.

Flamenco Dance and Music

Flamenco is perhaps Spain’s most popular musical export. The song and dance genre, rooted in the Andalusian Roma culture, relies heavily on a classical guitar sound, but also employs castanets, bells and tambourines.

The flamenco dance, performed by couples or individuals, features exaggerated hand and arm movements, hand clapping, swirling and foot stomping. Female flamenco dancers wear long, fringed dresses and men traditionally wear tight fitting suits, similar in look to a matador outfit.

Spain’s most famous flamenco performers include guitarists Andrés Segovia, Narciso Yepes, Carlos Montoyo, Joaquín Rodrigo and Manuel de Falla.

Latin Pop

As in most societies, young Spaniards love British and American pop music. But over the decades, artists from Spain and Latin America have created a more contemporary form of music, Latin pop, which incorporates rock and pop beats and traditional styles such as flamenco, cumbia, tango and merengue. All Hispanic societies borrow from and embrace the unique cultures of their fellow Spanish-speaking nations, which accounts for the variety and popularity of Latin pop Spaniards enjoy.

In the United States, Latin pop rose in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s. The popularity of Spanish-language pop music spurred the growth of many Latin pop sub-genres, such as Tejano, developed in the borders towns of South Texas.

Latin pop relies heavily on a wide range of musical instruments, including horns, percussion instruments and string instruments such as violins and stand-up bases. For example, Colombian Latin pop band La Mojarra Electrica employs trombones, saxophones, bongos, guitars, pianos and organs to create of fusion sound, a mixture of rock, jazz and cumbia genres.

Spaniards enjoy the music of many North, Central and South American Latin pop performers, including Shakira, Maluma, Alvaro Soler, and Jennifer Lopez. Julio Iglesias remains the king of Latin pop for a certain generation throughout Spain. The Spanish superstar has sold hundreds of millions of records worldwide and has performed in front of an estimated 60 million fans in live performances. Younger people in the country also enjoy music by the superstar's son, Enrique Iglesias. Latin pop rules the charts as the most popular style of music in the country, and reggaeton is heard in every city.

Gregorian Chants

For decades, the monks of Santo Domingo de Silos in Burgos have been a musical sensation. The Benedictine monastery started recording their Gregorian chants in the 1950s and have since sold millions of albums. Ismael Fernández de la Cuesta, a former monk and Spanish Musicological Society president, directed many of the order’s recordings. Canto Gregoriano, a two-disc recording produced in the 1990s, was sold throughout Europe and later appeared as a one-disc album on the EMI label.

The monks became so famous that Santo Domingo of Silos transformed into a major tourist destination. You can visit the monastery to explore its grounds and museum, or to attend daily liturgies, during which monks celebrate with sung prayers.


Zarzuela, Spain’s operatic musical genre, dates back to the 17th century. The musical style is thought to get its name from Madrid's Palacio de la Zarzuela, where royals once hosted local performers during lavish parties.

Music historians trace the roots of zarzuela to composer Pedro Calderón de la Barca, who created the operas "El Laurel de Apolo" and "La Púrpura de la Rosa". Many Spanish operas feature colorful costumes and tell tales of Madrid’s working class conflicts between criminals and police officers during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Spanish Hip-Hop

Hip-hop hit the Madrid music scene in the 1980s. Since then, Spanish artists have made big contributions to the genre. In the mid-1990s, El Club de los Poetas Violentos, a Madrid music club, produced "Zona Bruta", Spain’s first rap album.

Musical groups 7 Notas 7 Colores and CPV introduced a form of hip-hop that appealed to Hispanics, with tunes that reflected life on the outskirts of Barcelona. Seville-based performers, including Tote King and Siempre Fuertes de Konciencia, transformed Spanish hip-hop with humorous lyrics and messages that resonated with working-class listeners.

Hip-hop fans flock to Zaragoza, located about 200 miles west of Barcelona, to see performances by Violadores del Verso, one of Spain’s most influential hip-hop groups. The group’s lyrics appeal particularly to young fans with their doomsday messages.

Experiencing Spain's Music

Madrid’s Auditorio Nacional de Música is home to Spain’s national orchestra, which also perform at Madrid’s Teatro Real . In March, the city of Cuenca hosts Semanas de Música Religiosa. The festival began in 1962 and features international choirs and orchestras, with performances at the cathedral and other venues.

Granada celebrates the Festival Internacional de Música y Danza in June and July and Santander hosts the Festival Internacional de Santander, which features drama, dance and music performances each year in July and August. Throughout the summer, you can attend free concerts in at Madrid’s Templete del Retiro , located in Retiro Park.

In July, Córdoba hosts the Córdoba Guitar Festival , which features concerts and courses on modern, flamenco and classical guitar music, as well as programs about guitar construction. From mid-September to early October, Barcelona celebrates the Festival Internacional de Música, hosting international orchestras, opera performers and ballet troupes. Barcelona is also home to one of the world's most popular music festivals, Primavera Sound, which features up-and-coming Spanish bands in addition to international acts.

Spain Music Tours

Spain in Music Tours operates several excursions including its "Flamenco in Andalucía" tour. The tour begins in Seville, where you will stroll the Triana neighborhood to explore the Roma culture that gave root to flamenco music and dance. Continuing to Cadiz, you will learn about the music of Carnival, before traveling to Granada to enjoy a show in the world’s oldest flamenco club.

Spain in Music’s "Celtic Music in Galicia" tour, offered in July, begins in Santiago de Compostela, before continuing to Ortigueira, where you will enjoy Spain’s Celtic Music Festival. The "Sephardic Music" tour originates in Barcelona and explores Spain’s Jewish and Muslim cultures in Besalú, Jean and Lucena, where you will visit synagogues and mosques, before continuing to Seville to enjoy the sights and sounds of flamenco.

Allegro Holidays offers an 11-night music tour, which visits Barcelona’s Palau de la Musica concert hall, before traveling to the mountains outside Madrid for an organ performance at the Basilica de El Escorial. Continuing to Granada, you will tour the home of the late Spanish composer Manuel de Falla before traveling to Jerez de la Frontera to learn about the birth of flamenco. Throughout the tour guests have several opportunities to see chamber music and opera performances. The Allegro Holidays excursion includes hotel accommodations, continental breakfasts and bus transportation.

By Michael Evans

•culled from www.traveltips.usatoday.com

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