Everything that sprouts and grows under the Spanish sun becomes something special with a unique sound – a sound that always reminds us of flamenco, even if it’s not exactly flamenco. Resurging recently with the success of Rosalía and C. Tangana, we’ve rediscovered and celebrated flamenco like never before. That heartfelt and vibrant way of singing – added to the tireless clapping – has become ecstasy for our ears and a breath of fresh air for the Latin music scene.
The renewal of flamenco hasn’t come from the purists of the genre. It’s come from those who are difficult to pigeonhole, those who usually move in the border areas of music. A singer from Barcelona who studied flamenco, yes, but who never hesitated to venture into pop and reggaeton. A rapper from Madrid who bet big on an album full of collaborations, surrounded by old and new generations of flamenco. Rosalía and C. Tangana have become giants, in Spain and beyond, and now point the way.
A year ago, we looked at the Andalusian R&B scene to verify the power of adaption of urban rhythms in Spain, merging with traditional local music such as flamenco. There, we listed some of hip-hop’s key names like Rels B, Dellafuente, and Delaossa. And we highlighted artists to follow like Queralt Lahoz and Hnos Munoz. A small and first mapping that confirms that what’s happening in Iberian lands is much more than a trend.
Now’s the time to expand the focus and widen the menu of Spain’s musical offerings. So let’s start with three all-female bands that have been radiating from the magnetic city of Barcelona: Las Migas, Maruja Limón, and Ketekalles. In their songs and daily lives, they vindicate the empowered woman. And they all feed on flamenco and rumba to color their already vibrant songbook.
Of these Mediterranean bands, Las Migas is the one with the longest run. Formed in 2004 by graduates of the Higher School of Music of Catalonia, this quartet has been changing its line-up over the years. Guitarist and founding member, Marta Robles, continues today with Carolina Fernández on vocals, Alicia Grillo on guitar, and Laura Pacios on violin. They’ve released five albums that have expanded their musical horizons, from flamenco to jazz, from rumba to world music, always venturing with different rhythms.
Not far away, we ran into Maruja Limón. This band emerged in 2015 and is led by the charming voices of Esther González and Sheila Quero. Vicky Blum on guitar, Elisenda Fàbregas on percussion and Mila González on trumpet complete the quintet. Pointed out as a revelation from their first demo, these girls flirt with pop without losing sight of their main influences: flamenco, rumba and that whole range of “mestizaje” – term of musical fusion that has the Catalan group Ojos de Brujo among its references. In the songs of their third and recent album Vidas, they demolish the patriarchy and defend the rights of minorities.
There’s no competition between Las Migas and Maruja Limón, rather they’re friends and often share magical moments. Drawn to the funky groove of their cocktail shaker, Ketekalles is another female band from Barcelona, formed in 2016 with a more conventional lineup: Sombra Alor on vocals, Ana Toledo on guitar, Nadia Lago Sáez on bass, and Cami López on drums. “El Amor,” a song from their second album, went viral and last year they released a third album, El Pacto. Their most recent single “Pa’ Mi,” featuring the Chilean singer Pascuala Ilabaca, definitely proves the flamenco influences. Sombra has also been part of the feminist hip-hop combo Tribade.
Originally from Santander and Zaragoza, although based in Barcelona since 2015, Jano Fernández and Ariadna Rubio joined forces and talents to bring TéCanela to life. In this singer-songwriter duo, he sings and plays guitar, while she also sings and plays traverse flute. Their songs are loaded with good vibes and seem fueled by travel adventures and life lessons. And their musical search has a lot to do with “mestizaje,” merging different styles and rhythms, from Spanish flamenco to Latin American folklore.
A little far from traditional music but endowed with a masterful pop eclecticism, we find the promising Vic Mirallas. Originally from Barcelona, this 28-year-old singer-songwriter moves freely through the fields of R&B and the rest of urban music. Multi-instrumentalist, Mirallas studied at the renowned Berklee music school and came to work as a session player for artists like Alejandro Sanz. His second and most recent album, 2021’s Crucigramas, is a finished sample of his great artistic versatility, where he even weaves perfect songs for his guests, from his countrymen Juancho Marqués and Carlos Ares to the Argentinian Ca7riel and the Peruvian Nicole Zignago.
Early this year we had already detected the songwriting prowess of Álvaro Lafuente, better known as Guitarricadelafuente, “guitarist of the fountain.” Despite his strong flamenco imprint, this young singer-songwriter has little Andalusian in him: his parents are from Zaragoza, and he was born and lived in the coastal city of Benicàssim. There, in his teenage room, he began to outline his first songs, such as the striking “Guantanamera,” inspired by the summers he spent in a small Aragonese town where his grandmother is from.
There are several turning points in the still brief career of Madrid singer Paula Cendejas. It may have been her cover of “Despacito”, shaken from her Instagram account back in 2015 or it could be C. Tangana featuring on her song “Como Habla Una Mujer” in 2020. Focusing almost entirely on the sensual beats of Latin R&B, she already boasts a list of singles with the help of specialists like Jesse Baez and Alizzz. Paula has also collaborated with Colombian groups Piso 21 and Las Villa.