Whether you are living in or just visiting a foreign country I think that it’s always worth getting to know some of the local music. It’s a great way to immerse yourself, and you will always think of your time abroad when you hear those songs again.
I also recommend listening to music whenever you are studying a foreign language. Every time I study Spanish, I listen to Spanish music. Even when I’m listening to a listening activity on Duolingo, I’m still listening to music. I personally swear by it. It’s the best way to immerse yourself in the language, and you pick up tons of phrases and pronunciations this way.
But finding good music in a different language is hard, even with the internet at your disposal. So I made this list of songs that, I think, are guaranteed to be good.
First I will share two special singers that every visitor to Spain should be aware of, then I’ll list out some more recommendations separated by genre. And all but one of these songs are by Spanish artists, as opposed to Latin American artists, just to give you an idea of what “true” Spanish music sounds like.
I got these two recommendations from my adult students when I asked them for some real Spanish music. They immediately recommended Manolo Escobar.
The first song is “Porompompero”, which is a nonsense word with no meaning.
Manolo Escobar was a famous Andalusian singer who created this song back in 1962. This song has been covered countless times, and if you travel to Andalusia you are sure to hear street musicians playing their own interpretation of it.
My next favorite song from him is “Mi Carro Me Lo Robaron”, My car was stolen. It seems to be about his car getting stolen in the middle of the night, but he might be aluding to something else.
You can’t go wrong with Manolo Escobar, but younger Spanish people typically roll their eyes when you mention him haha.
Rosalia is a singer, not a genre, but classifying her is difficult and she is really popular right now so she gets her own section. I’ve heard her songs in taxis, shops, grocery stores, and cars passing by on the street.
She blends pop/hip hop with traditional flamenco sounds, while her videos are strange and usually full of symbolism, though always entertaining. Then there is her personal style which blends street with tradition and haute couture.
The first song that really blew up was “Malamente”, Badly.
But this song “Aunque Es De Noche”, Although it is night is one of my favorites.
You can not go to Spain without encountering reggaeton. The style is originally from Puerto Rico, and most of the best reggaeton artists are Puerto Rican. So while it is not Spanish in the sense that it is from Spain, it is one of the most popular genres here.
This is one of the more controversial genres of music in the Spanish speaking world, mostly because the lyrics can be seen as misogynistic. Most of the songs are about parties, drugs, sex etc. But the beats are still addictive, though a bit repetitive.
The most played reggaeton on my computer is a remix of “Escapate Conmigo”, Get Away With Me. Pretty much every big name (Ozuna, Bad Bunny, De La Ghetto, Arcángel, Noriel, Almighty) in the reggaeton world added a verse or two to the remix, so it gives you a good taste of the genre.
There are tons of different singers, but due to the signature reggaeton beat a lot of the songs blend together. If you like it, there are countless playlists on YouTube that play on endless loops.
For me it’s a guilty pleasure genre that reminds me of going out to bars and being at the beach.
There are tons of great songs on youtube that are either parodies or elaborate jokes. Either way, everytime you listen to them you pick up more of what makes them funny.
Here are two songs by the same people. The first went super viral in Spain, and ended up being featured in most of the national newspapers. It’s called “Velaske, yo soi guapa?”, Velaske, am I pretty?
The song centers around a painting called Las Meninas by the famous painter Velazquez, and is “sung” by the young princess Margaret Theresa. The painting itself is incredibly famous and complex. It features the painter Velazquez who should be painting a portrait of the king and queen, but is instead focusing on the princess. It calls a lot of the trappings of royalty and wealth into question, and the song pokes fun at all that. Also the deliberate misspellings and the bastardization of the painters name (from Velazquez to Velaske) are, I think, poking fun at the Andalusian accent, which makes sense seeing as how Margaret Teresa and Velazquez were both from Seville.
The second song by the same people is “Te Coloniso”, I Colonize You. It’s a reggaeton parody of Christopher Columbus and his “discovery” of the new world.
But my favorite comedy song writers are Pascu Y Rodri who have a youtube channel called Destripando La Historia. The name means something like Eviscerating the Story. They take famous tales from fables and history and make them into songs with animations to go with it.
I think that Batman is a good place to start.
But every single song these people put out is just pure gold and the style of music changes to fit the story. See what else they have over on YouTube.
These songs are hilarious once you translate them, so I did my best to translate them right here.
Rock went through the same stages in Spain as it did in the USA. It started slow and then had it’s golden days in the 70s and 80s. Then blues rock, punk, grunge and all other kinds of rock came along.
First up is a band that came together in the early 80s… Barón Rojo, Red Baron and their song “Los Rockeros Van al Infierno”, Rockers go to Hell.
Moving on to the 90s we have Héroes del Silencio, Heroes of Silence and the song “Entre Dos Tierras”, Between Two Worlds.
I get some cool late 80s early 90s vibes from them, and they get props for keeping rock alive back in the 1990s.
The modern era of rock can best be represented by Toundra, tundra. This band is kind of like a less dark Tool, in that they have really long instrumentals and few lyrics (I still haven’t found any). Then they combine Spanish flare, classical instruments, and deep dark themes. I really really like this band, though there are no words to practice listening to. They’ve been called the best rock band Spain has ever produced, and they are probably my favorite on this list!
This is another genre that just isn’t as popular, and finding GOOD Spanish heavy metal is hard.
The first song I found that I liked is by Mägo de Oz, and is called “Fiesta pagana 2.0”, Pagan Party 2.0.
This band, and this specific song, always come in first place on everyone’s list of “Top Heavy Metal Bands From Spain”, and they deserve as such.
Folk metal is always fun and this song should remind you that folk music is different all throughout Spain. Folk music from the north has more in common with Gaelic music than flamenco.
The second option I can recommend is Warcry. Specifically this song “Huelo el Miedo”, I smell fear. A lot of what they have tends to start slow, but they always build up to a great power metal crescendo.
I could be wrong, but I think this music video is retelling The Count of Monte Cristo…
My other favorite is Medina Azahara. I wasn’t going to put them on this list, but the band has a special place in my heart. Back when we took a road trip through Andalusia I was looking for information about the Medina Azahara archaeology site north of Cordoba. It turns out that Medina Azahara is also the name of a hair metal band from the 80s, and one of their songs is titled “Cordoba”. So I accidently started listening to some of their songs. But then that led me down the rabbit hole, and before I knew it Medina Azahara ended up being the soundtrack to that awesome road trip.
This one is “Favorita de un Sultán”, Favorite of a Sultan.
There are tons of indie bands in Spain once you start looking, and the indie scene in Spain is as varied as the indie scene in the USA, and it changes every year. So to start, here are two of the biggest names in the indie scene.
The first indie song I found that I liked was by Fuel Fandango called “Toda la Vida”, Lifetime. This song is in English and Spanish, so it’s easy to listen to if you don’t speak Spanish.
Next is Lori Meyers with “Mi Realidad”, My reality. This is one of the most popular indie songs by one of the most popular indie bands, so is it really indie still? I don’t know, but it’s good!
To stick to the indie theme, the next band is much less well known, but I’m enjoying them all the same for their laid back sound. They are named Margarita Siempre Viva, Daisy/Tequila Drink/Woman’s name Always Lives.
The first song here is is by Morat, Aitana. Morat is a pop band from Columbia, and Aitana is a pop singer/sensation from Barcelona. They collaborated on this song, “Presiento” I Feel, and it’s been hovering near the top of the charts since April.
It’s fun, and very summer-y.
Next is a another collaboration from David Otero and Rozalen, two established Spanish pop singers. At first, I didn’t think I was going to like it, but it’s cute so it goes on the list.
Just behind, and maybe overtaking, reggaeton in popularity is hip hop. There are tons of hip hop artists from Latin America, but the homegrown ones certainly hold their own.
The first on this list has to be Mala Rodriguez, Bad Rodriguez. I came across her a long time ago when I was looking for musicians with Andalusian accents, and I’ve been listening to her ever since.
This song is called “Gitanas”, Gypsy Ladies, and is about women standing up and taking charge. It’s also dope because it blends hip hop with flamenco. She strove to show an accurate representation of flamenco in her video to remind people that flamenco is not about being sexy, it’s about having attitude.
Number two on my list is Yung Beef, a singer who has been called the king of Spanish trap by at least one magazine, and his song “Mala y Bouge” (which means something like bad and decedent).
Last up is C. Tagana and a song featuring everyone’s favorite Spanish singer, Rosalia.
Folk is a difficult thing for me to get into since it’s usually paying homage to a culture I know nothing about. It gets harder when you realize that every region of Spain has a different king of folk music, and it’s not always sung in Spanish.
I didn’t struggle as hard as I thought I would to find good folk music. This first song is by Acetre and is called “As Pontes”, The Bridges (In Portuguese).
Acetre hails from Extremadura, an isolated region of western Spain bordering Portugal. The people there speak Spanish, but also Estremeñu (their own thing) and sometimes Portuguese. As far as I can tell, this song is in Portuguese, but the band is Spanish so it makes the list.
No list about Spanish music would be complete with flamenco, and the best example I could find is Carmen Linares.
This post being a giant list of Spanish music you might assume flamenco would get its own section, but no. It’s just a different kind of folk music, brought to Spain by the Roma, and common to the south of Spain. It is one of the more popular folk styles though, and that’s why everyone has heard about it.
The final folk song is brought to us by the Al-Andaluz Project. How this came about is a fun story and it starts with a German medieval music group called Estampie. Eastampe wanted to bring the medieval musical traditions of Spain back to life and, well, medieval Spain was a weird blend of Moorish, Christian, and Jewish cultures. So this group got three singers, one Muslim, one Jewish and one Christian, and set about researching the music from medieval Spain. The result is actually kind of cool.
The name of the song is “Morena”, Brunette. And it’s hard to tell, but she is totally singing in Spanish. Keep your eyes open for the hurdy gurdy that makes an appearance at 2:02.
Well that’s it, ¡ya está!
Keep in mind that this is just a taste, I had to cut so many bands and sooo many songs from this list. But I hope it gives you an idea of what the music is like here. And even if you aren’t studying Spanish the music is still good!
So which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!