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Forget the Macarena - it’s time to update Spanish music’s international rep.

Por: | 16 de febrero de 2016

Three songs have eclipsed perceptions of Spanish music in the non-Spanish speaking countries of Europe for far too long. These are Los de Rio’s 1995 dance-party hit Macarena, Ricky Martin’s Spanglish 1999 classic Livin la Vida Loca and Enrique Iglesia’s 2001 sob-provoking ballad Hero. I guarantee that if you ask a few people from, say, the UK, what Spanish songs they know (that is, songs actually from Spain) one or all of those aforementioned hits will be on the list.

So why is it that so many of us recognize Spanish music as those three songs that were released over a decade ago? Of course the Spanish music scene is far more than just vintage Latino pop. It just seems that Spanish musicians have had a bit of difficulty breaking outside of Latin and Spanish audiences.

Although perhaps not achieving massive superstar status like the aforementioned acts, Spanish artists are now gaining recognition internationally by means of exhaustive touring, high profile festival appearances and damn great music. So let’s retire our Macarena dance moves and get up to date on a few musicians who are earning Spain a solid musical reputation abroad.


El Guincho


From the Canary Islands, El Guincho is Pablo Díaz-Reixa, a musician whose tropical psych pop has put listeners around the globe in a state of contented bliss. He gained international recognition after the release of his second album, 2008’s Alegranza!. Alegranza! is a unique sound – complete with erratic rhythms, obscure sampling and hypnotic chanting - it’s a listening experience that idyllically saunters along, taking you somewhere far-away, eccentric and unreal. El Guincho has since released Pop Negro in 2010 and has toured Europe and North America.

Now, six years since Pop Negro, El Guincho will release his fourth album, HiperAsia, on March 11th. Inspired by the chaotic frenzy of Chinese bazaars in Madrid, the album takes a more electronic turn than his previous records. HiperAsia is already available to download digitally and the music video for the first single “Comix” was premiered at the end of January.

More: El Guincho (Official Facebook)


Álvaro Soler


In January 2016, Soler won the European Commission’s European Border Breaker Award – an initiative set up to award musicians who gain success outside of their homeland. His debut single El Mismo Sol is almost vexingly catchy; flamenco-claps are layered with melodic guitar riffs and tied together with Soler’s uplifting, party-themed lyrics. It first became a massive summer anthem in Italy last year – and thanks to an English re-recording of the song featuring Jennifer Lopez, the infectious Latin-pop hit is now set to get stuck in the heads of both US and UK listeners. 

It’s not so much a surprise that Soler is gaining success internationally – he’s quite the international guy. At a young age, he attended a German school in Japan, where he was influenced by the variety of music that his international classmates were listening to. He speaks fluent German and is now based in Berlin – although he is fiercely proud of his hometown Barcelona. “…of course my music is Latin pop - if you have to put in a box. Although lyrically I just took the personal experience of living in Japan, Berlin, Spain and from working together with creative minds in different places.”

In 2016, Soler is now faced with the difficult task of following up his super hit. “We are finishing some songs now and I feel confident I will keep on making music. The goal is not to have something bigger than the last song- that would be cool of course, but the goal is to have the same fun as the last record and just see what happens. I’m just happy to survive by making music, travelling and meeting new people.” 

La Pegatina



Ska-party band La Pegatina have had just as much success touring outside of Spain than in their home country. Last year, from February until December, they completed an extensive tour, visiting ten countries, including Macedonia, Belgium, France, England and the Netherlands. They have a large fanbase in the Netherlands, and eventually dedicated an entire tour to the country. “Holland is one of our favourite countries to play. People there are really open minded and open to new cultures. Plus, they love to party. In Spain, or France, audiences can be more critical. Here people just enjoy the music without thinking too much about it – no judgment” says accordionist Romain.

Last May they released their fifth album Revulsiu, “This CD has more social lyrics than our last albums… lyrics about our country, about our identity, corruption, politics” says singer Adrià. Although the band is based in Barcelona, they are hesitant to align themselves with the independence movement. “Our band has members from France, Spain, Catalonia” Adrià continues, “…we are mixing everything – so we don’t want to be leading any movement. We can say we need a social change in our country and a referendum is needed, but as a band we don’t all hold the same opinion.”

2016 promises even more shows for La Pegatina. At the beginning of February the band announced the formation of “La Gran Pegatina”, a touring ensemble that includes the addition of extra vocals, sax, violin, trumpet, trombone, electric guitar and a VJ. This version of the band will only exist for a five month European tour, “…it’s something very special for us and we will do something legendary” the band wrote on their website. 

Sara ∏


Dubbed as the new face of ‘neo-soul’, Catalan musician Sara Pi combines soulful singing with funk and RnB styles – then blends it with exquisite Brazilian rhythms. Her latest single, Summertime neatly sums up the essence of her music “summertime, thinking of you here…. The heat of your breeze as you pass me by…” – the elusive feeling of ‘saudade’ is flawlessly captured, making it an ideal soundtrack to a tranquil, sunny day. Her unique style was brought together through collaborating with Brazilian producer and guitarist Erico Moriera – and she now bases herself between Brazilian beach town Paraty and her hometown Barcelona. While the majority of her songs are in English, she has also recorded tracks in Portuguese, Spanish and Catalan.

Sara Pi released her debut album Wake Up on Sony Records in 2013, which was met with critical acclaim in her home country. Her follow up album, Break the Chains, was released in October 2015, and she has since been touring in Spain. This March she will showcase her music to an international audience at Austin’s SXSW - as one of the few Spanish acts to be featured at the high profile event.


Other ones to watch: BeGun, Delorean, Hinds, La M.O.D.A, John GRVY, The Parrots

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

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