10 Spanish Popular Music Artists You Probably Don’t Know

Wed, Jan 28, 2009

Spanish Culture, World Culture


When it comes to Spanish language and culture, I don’t know very much besides the things most Americans might associate (correctly or incorrectly) Spanish culture with like Taco Bell, Ricky Martin, Tapas, etc…When it comes to “Spanish” singers and music I can only come up with Enrique Iglesias, Ricky Martin, Shakira, Selena, and Jennifer Lopez.  Just to clarify that when I say “Spanish” music I mean music that’s in the Spanish language, not necessarily music from Spain. However, that got me asking myself what is popular music from Spain like? Who are the famous and popular singers and what do they sing about? I figured it was time to educate myself, and hopefully others who might not know either but are curious to learn.

Where to start? Like all questions I have I turned to Google to provide me with a starting point. I Googled “spanish pop culture” and found a page dedicated to Popular Spanish Music.  It lists and briefly describes 17 popular Spanish music acts and groups (Spanish as in from Spain or has roots in Spain).  It has links to the Amazon product pages and fan clubs for these bands, but I was more interested in who they are and seeing what they are like.

There are 10 different Spanish popular artists I’ve highlighted.  Here’s my summary of each of the artists:

  1. Ella Baila Sola – Spanish Dixie Chicks
  2. Rosana Arbelo – Spanish Melissa Etheridge (plays guitar and voice kind of similar)
  3. Mecano – According to wikipedia they have a “distinctive, playful and sexually ambiguous style.”
  4. Paco de Lucia – awesome guitar skills and who doesn’t like flamenco music?
  5. Luz Casal – A more chill version of Alanis Morissette
  6. Ultimo De La Fila – Older Ritchie Valens…watch for donkey in video
  7. Sergio Dalma – The Michael Bolton of Spain?
  8. Celtas Cortas – Celtic Spanish music??
  9. Heroes de Selencia – They remind me of a Spanish version of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers
  10. Nek – 1) his name is so short 2) He oozes with sexuality, ladies will not be upset

Without further ado I present 10 Spanish pop music artists you probably don’t know (especially if you are American).

#1 Ella Baila Sola back to artist index

Singing “amores de barra”

ella-baila-solaFrom Popular Spanish Music:

No less than nine of their songs flew up Spain’s Top-40 hits. These two girls represent the best of popular Spanish music. Their first two albums were great. Their new third album is even better! They have a special harmony all their own that has enchanted fans throughout Spain. It’s no wonder when you listen to their touching lyrics and wonderful harmonies.

From Wikipedia:

Ella baila sola (English: She dances alone) was a Spanish successful musical duet formed by Marta Botía Alonso (Madrid, Spain, September 15, 1974) and Marilia Andrés Casares (Cuenca, Spain, December 17, 1974). The group dissolved in 2001.

#2  Rosana Arbelo back to artist index

Singing “Respiras y yo”

From Popular Spanish Music:rosana-arbelo

Rosana exploded onto the Spanish music scene in 1996 with her debut album, “Lunas Rotas.” It went on to sell more copies in Spain than any other CD to date. Rosana returned in 1998 with another chart-topping collection “Luna Nueva.” Her passionate voice soars and her tender, earthy lyrics resonate deep emotion.

From Wikipedia:

Rosana (full name Rosana Arbelo) is a Spanish singer and composer. She was born on October 24th, 1963 on the island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, where she was raised. She was the youngest of a family of eight children. She began composing music after moving to Madrid in the early 1980s. She won first place in Benidorm’s music festival with her song “Fuego y Miel,” which led to her winning a recording contract with MCA. Her debut album, Lunas Rotas, was released in 1996. The soundtrack for the 1996 movie Curdled featured her songs “Lunas Rotas” and “El Talismán,” exposing her to an international audience. Her next album, Luna Nueva, was released in 1998, followed by the self-titled Rosana in 2001.

#3  Mecano back to artist index

Singing “Hijo de la Luna” (World Music Awards, 1990)

youtube description: One of Mecano’s most representitive songs ever, The story of a Gypsi woman who asks the Moon for a husband, however, the Moon asked for her child in return. Accepting the deal, she did not know the consecuences that it might bring to his jelous husband.A powerful song chosen by Sarah Brightman to do a cover in her album “La Luna”

From Popular Spanish Music:mecano

With over 16 Million albums sold, they are by far the biggest group in Spain. Not only the most popular group in Spain, Mecano also has wide appeal throughout Europe. Their upbeat music paints all kinds of images, from the Plaza del Sol in Madrid on New Year’s Eve, to a lost expedition at the South Pole. They even have a song about the story of Laika, the Russian space dog that anyone can sing along with.

From Wikipedia:

Mecano was a Spanish pop band whose debut coincided with La Movida Madrileña (Madrilenian Groove), a sociocultural movement that occurred in Spain during the 1980s. Although Spanish music critics do not consider the band one of the most representative ensembles of the aforementioned cultural wave,[1] Mecano found commercial success in the ’80s and the early ’90s, both in its native country and Latin America, France, and Italy with 25 million worldwide sales. Most of the lyrics were written by one of the Cano brothers from a male perspective, and were mainly sung by Ana Torroja in a melodic, childlike voice while preserving that male perspective; this gave the group its distinctive, playful and sexually ambiguous style.

#4  Paco de Lucia back to artist index

Performing “Entre dos aguas” (1976):

From Popular Spanish Music:pacodelucia

No spanish music page would be complete without some flamenco. Paco de Lucia is by far the best flamenco guitarist of the moment. One listen and you’ll know why.

From Wikipedia:

Paco de Lucía, born Francisco Sánchez Gómez (in Algeciras, Cádiz on December 21, 1947), is a Spanish composer and guitarist. He is recognized as a virtuoso Flamenco guitarist all over the world, sometimes called one of the greatest guitarists of all time, in any genre. He is a leading proponent of the Modern Flamenco style, and is one of the very few flamenco guitarists who have also successfully crossed over into other genres of music. He enjoys, and has been a successful musician in, many styles such as classical, jazz and world music. He is the winner of the 2004 Prince of Asturias Awards in Arts, and is the uncle of Spanish pop singer Malú.

#5  Luz Casal back to artist index

Singing “Un nuevo día brillará”

From Popular Spanish Music:luz-casal

Spain’s female rock sensation. She’s so popular, Pedro Almodovar included serveral of her tunes in his 1991 hit “Tacones Lejanos.” Some of her tunes will rock you while others will soothe you.

From Wikipedia:

Luz Casal (born November 11, 1958 at Boimorto, is a Spanish pop singer. She grew up in neighbouring Asturias, took singing, piano and ballet classes, and moved to Madrid to pursue a career as a musician.

She became famous in the early 1980s, and remained an important figure in Spanish pop music all through said decade and beyond, with her sound gradually maturing towards soft adult pop. She recorded a cover version of Étienne Daho‘s French language song “Duel au Soleil” in Spanish called “Un nuevo día brillará”, which became a hit song.

In 1992 she enjoyed great success with her appearance in the soundtrack of Pedro Almodóvar‘s acclaimed film Tacones Lejanos singing Agustín Lara‘s theme “Piensa en mí“.

In January 2007, Luz Casal was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent an operation at the Ruber Clinic in Madrid, seven months later, she revealed to the Spanish media that she had overcome her disease.

Her first name, Luz, means “light” in Spanish.

#6  Ultimo De La Fila back to artist index

Singing “Como un burro amarrado a la puerta del baile”

From Popular Spanish Music:ultimo-de-la-fila

Nobody sings or writes like these two guys from Catalunya. It’s hard to call them anything less than “original,” with such songs as “Vestido de Hombre Rana” and “Las Hojas que Ríen.” Many have said no Spanish music collection is complete without at least one of their CDs. They are my personal favorite because their lyrics are so poetic.

From Wikipedia:

El Último de la Fila (formerly Los Burros) was a Spanish music group created in the mid 1980s in Barcelona, Spain. The original members were Manolo García and Quimi Portet.

#7  Sergio Dalma back to artist index

Singing “Mi historia entre tus dedos”

From Popular Spanish Music:sergio-dalma

Orginally from Sabadell, Spain, Serio Dalma has been compared to such greats as Kenny Loggins and Michael Bolton. Over the years he has become one of the great figures of Spanish pop music. He has very upbeat music with most of his themes revolving around love.

From Wikipedia:

Sergio Dalma started his career singing in bands and doing chorus, until he won the TV program “Gent d’aqui”, in the Catalan station of TVE, which won him a regular contract to sing in the Shadows night-club in Barcelona[1]. Sergio signed up with the record company Horus, and edited his first album, “Esa chica es mia“, in 1989. Though it wasn’t very successful, the company gave him another chance with “Sintiéndonos la piel“, in 1991. That same year, Sergio Dalma was chosen to represent Spain in the Eurovision Song Contest with the song “Bailar Pegados“, where he finished in the 4th position. This was his call to fame.

One year later, he published “Adivina“, which arrived to number one in charts thanks to the song “Ave Lucía“. Afterwards, he signed with Polygram, with whom he edited four albums, and later with his current record company, Universal, with whom he has published another four.

Sergio Dalma has sung in Spanish for most of his career, but being born in Catalonia (Spain) he speaks Catalan too. His last two albums, “Lo Mejor de Sergio Dalma” and “Todo Lo Que Quieres“, contain songs in Catalan. This album also contains songs in Galician and he has also sung in Italian.

#8  Celtas Cortos back to artist index

Singing “Retales De Una Vida”

From Popular Spanish Music:celtas-cortos

This group plays rock with a distinctive celtic twist. There’s no other group quite like them anywhere in the world. Most of their songs have a fast celtic beat with a mix of traditional and modern instruments.

From Wikipedia:

Celtas Cortos is a Spanish music group of celtic rock.

It was formed in Valladolid (Castilla y León) in 1986. Eight friends, four of which played in the group Almenara decided to participate in a music contest under the name “Colectivo Eurofolk”. They won the first prize and continued to play together changing their name to Celtas Cortos.

They won another contest in April 1987, the prize was the production of an album. They shared the prize with two other winners, so they contributed three songs to the album Así es como suena: Folk joven.

Executive producer Paco Martín helped them get out their first album, Salida de emergencia, with only instrumental songs. The next album, Gente Impresentable added the voice and the lyrics of Jesús H. Cifuentes (Cifu) to the powerful instruments. Their celtic rock style was combined with protest and other more melancholic lyrics. Through the years their music mixed with different styles such as Caribbean music, flamenco, electronic music or reggae. Their list of hits include 20 de Abril, La senda del tiempo or Tranquilo Majete.

In 2002 Cifu left the group, a definitive turning point after the departure of César Cuenca and Nacho Martín. In the beginning of 2006 Cifu comes back to the group to prepare their next release, 20 years after their foundation.

#9  Heroes del Silencio back to artist index

Singing “La Chispa Adecuada”

From Popular Spanish Music:heroes-del-silencio

This is the premier rock group from Spain. If you like your electric guitar played “fuerte” then these artists are for you. They bring down the house with their strong Rock lyrics and deep rock style.

From Wikipedia:

Héroes del Silencio (sometimes referred to as just Héroes) is a Spanish rock band from Zaragoza (Aragon, Spain) formed by Juan Valdivia. In the 1990s they experienced success around Spain and the Americas, and various European countries including Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, France and Portugal becoming a successful Spanish group and a fact in the history of the Rock en Español scene. After ten years and numerous albums, the band broke up in 1997. In 2007, as part of a 20-year anniversary celebration and 10 years after their break-up, they participated in a 10-concert world tour. Then later on the artist Enrique Bunbury went solo.

#10  Nek back to artist index

Singing “Laura No Esta”

From Popular Spanish Music:nek

This guy drives the girls crazy with his sexy voice and flirtatious lyrics. His tunes are amazingly rhythmic and full of positive energy. Nek is one of the greatest Spanish-singing pop musicians of our time, although many people have not yet heard him. If you appreciate true musical talent and musical energy, Nek will not disappoint you.

From Wikipedia:

Filippo Neviani, also known as Nek (born January 6, 1972 in Sassuolo, Italy), is a popular contemporary Italian singer-songwriter. Some of his hits include Laura Non C’È, which became a major hit in Europe and Latin America in 1997, being one of the most listened songs of that year, and Almeno Stavolta. Nek records and performs in both Italian and Spanish.

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12 Comments For This Post

  1. Jaun Millalonco Says:

    Excellent YouTube post ! thanks for sharing. I’ll be adding your blog to my reader.

  2. Jesus Rodriguez Says:

    Great music; I will be playing Paco de Lucia — Entre Dos Aguas tomorrow in a children story teller program.

  3. ben Says:

    Thanks. This post was kind of my own homework assignment…just wanted to learn about some other musicians outside the united states.

  4. lullaby Says:

    Thanks for being interested in Spanish pop music. I´m Spanish and you have chosen some of the most influential singers but let me tell you that your list is incomplete if you don´t add ‘Alejandro Sanz’.

    I´m not a fan of this guy but If you want to give a true information about the Spanish pop music you have to talk about Sanz. It´s just a suggestion.


  5. ben Says:

    Thanks for the suggestion. It’s great. I don’t know much about other country’s culture so these kinds of suggestions help a lot!

  6. claudine Says:

    While in Barcelona a few years ago we heard some music in a cafe we were totally intrigued by. We questioned a waiter who promptly wrote down ‘Chambao’ on a piece of paper for us. It changed our lives!

    I’d start with ‘Endorfinas En La Mente’

  7. Sabrina Rongstad-Bravo Says:

    Hi There, A great blog, but many of the links to the songs are deleted.
    Just thought I’d let you know. I was hoping to listen to it. I always feel music is a great way to learn languages. Me gusta mucho Los Burros!

  8. Jessica Says:

    Heroes del silencio, is no spanish red hot chili peppers.
    Heroes del silencio are heroes del silencio! period
    they are themselves and theyve made great music you shouldnt compare any of these artist to any other artist. its disrespectful.

  9. Flamenco Fan Says:

    Gruesse zur Weihnachtszeit und die besten Wuensche zum neuen Jahr. Greetings fort he Christmas season and best wishes for the New Year.

  10. Marta Says:

    Nice post, Ben 🙂
    I’m Spanish, from Spain, and I have to say you chose very representative bands. However, most of them split up many years ago, hehe. For example, Ella baila sola doesn’t exist anymore. Or Mecano, or Heroes del Silencio (which is not a “pop” band for me and surely it is not pop for their fans either, hehe). Although some of them are still singing alone. But, as I said, these bands were really important at their time.
    And well, although Nek sings in Spanish, he’s Italian, so I wouldn’t say he represents Spanish music.

    If you wanted to include new pop Spanish bands, I would suggest including “Alejandro Sanz”, “Conchita”, “Bebe”, “Amaral”, “El canto del loco”, “M-Clan”, “Fito y Fitipaldis”… I don’t like this kind of music, but these bands and songwriters are famous nowadays. Fortunately, we have very good rock and indie bands too! “Vetusta Morla”, “Love of Lesbian”, “Deluxe”, “Iván Ferreiro”…

    Anyway, thanks for the post, I liked it. And I hope I had helped a little bit. See you!

  11. Natalie Abbinanti Says:

    Not sure about his role in RNB, but previous Latino style was super for me:)

  12. Jedd Says:

    I like the Quinta Estacion. They are from Spain and won a Latin Grammy in 2010. My favorite song is Tu Peor Error.

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