Recommend me some Spanish-language music!

I’m seriously considering moving to South America for a year or so, near the end of the year (I’m an ESL teacher), and I’m trying to improve my Spanish before I go. Along with enrolling in an evening Spanish class, and reading Spanish language Calvin and Hobbes, I thought finding some decent Spanish-language music to listen to might help my ear, or at the very least, spark my motivation when I’m feeling lazy.

Now, I know very few Spanish musicians, but I get the impression that if I go looking indiscriminately, most of what I get will be Shakira and bubblegum pop. So I thought I’d turn to the Dope for help finding Spanish music I’d like.

I already know and like Los Lobos. I’ve heard Roderigo y Gabriela. I enjoy Spanish guitar in general.

When it comes to English-language music, I like bands like Iggy and the Stooges, Velvet Underground, Brian Eno, Gogol Bordello…that sort of thing.

Can anyone recommend some great Spanish-language bands or songs I should check out?


A friend of mine has a website:

Not so much Iggy, VU, etc., but a good place to hear traditional music from the region.

Oh, traditional music is great. I’ve only really heard traditional music from Spain before (well, when it comes to music from Spanish language cultures). I’ll check it out, thanks!

Alex Ubago’s “Fantasia o Realidad” CD is terrific from beginning to end.

It’s mellow, romantic music, but it’s good songwriting rather than schlock. The fact that it’s mostly slow songs actually helps Spanish learners to pick up on the lyrics, I find.

One problem: He’s from Spain, so it’s not exactly South American Spanish.

Some people hate on Mana, the Mexican rock band, but I like them a lot, too. Their last album, “Amar es Combatir,” was great, and their new one is due out any day now.

I like rock’n’roll en espanol. Mana, Cafe Tacuba, and Kinky are some of my favorites.

You might try Juan Luis Guerra, a Dominican who writes merengues, often with social themes, that are a step up from the typical. Some of his better known songs are Ojala que llueva cafe and Visa para un sueno.

Also the Cuban son on Buena Vista Social Club, and on other albums by these musicians, especially Compay Segundo, is very good.

One of my personal favorites, much less known than the above, is the Venezuelan band Desorden Publico, which plays Spanish-language ska.

You could check out Federico Aubele. More of an urban sound than the bands you listed but a very eclectic artist covering a variety of styles, often at once.

Cafe Tacuba is one of my favorites, youtube “Dos Niños” and “La Baile”, those are my two top favorite songs by them with relatively easy to understand Spanish.

I’m a pretty big fan of Aterciopelados from Colombia (and generally find the lyrics not so difficult to understand).

Older thread from last time I remember participating in something like this, which also includes some even older threads with even more music suggestions.

Have you tried listening to Mano Negra and by extension, Manu Chao? They sing in different languages, but their main one is Spanish. Mano Negra was Manu Chao’s previous band.

Don’t diss Shakira (or for that matter, Ricky Martin). Both of them have good voices, and in Spanish, their songs sound much better and less bubblegum than what you listen to in English. Seriously. Go for Martin’s “A medio vivir” album, although his MTV Unplugged album is also quite good (seek “Tu Recuerdo”), and try Shakira’s first 2 Spanish commercial albums (¿Donde estan los ladrones? and Pies descalzos).

Just recently, I was listening to Ojos de Drumba, which mixes Flamenco and techno beats, if you’re interested in checking that out.

Options I have not recommended before (like Silvio Rodriguez and Mercedes Sosa) include Bebé and Chambao, both female singers from Spain.

I’m a big fan of Julieta Venegas. My Spanish isn’t fantastic, and I find her pretty easy to understand. Check out her Unplugged session.

I have “Susana” by Ricky Martin on mp3. I thought of this thread when I was listening to Garotas Suercas, but then I remembered they’re Brazilian and that’s Portuguese, not Spanish.

Most of the songs in Spanish I like are ones whose words I understand and can sing along:
Babasonicos “Y que?
Kinky "Presedente"
Elly Guerra “Tengo Frio
Los Bunkers “Llueve Sobre La Ciudad
Fobia “Mas Caliente Que El Sol
Dsidente “Basura Pop
Cartel de Santa “La Llamada

But not always:
Café Tacuba “No Controles
Árbol “Esperar” (if I could ever find the lyrics, I’d probably understand more than the third I do now)

I love, love, love the old Latin jazz and Salsa.

El Gran Combo Telefono and Brujeria

Celia Cruz (Azucar!) Quimbara. Here she is still rockin’ in her old age La Negra Tiene Tumbao.

Willie Colon Calle Luna, Calle Sol, El Dia De Suerte and La Murga.

Ruben Blades Pedro Navaja.

Eddie Palmieri Puerto Rico.
Don’t wanna but I will stop now.

Juan Luis Guerra already was mentioned;

are there specific styles you’d like to hear about? Years ago, I met an American friend over the weekend in Madrid: he’d been there for almost half a year, on business. He asked me whether there is heavy metal music in Spanish… but did so on Sunday :smack: Yes, there’s heavy metal in Spanish, aaaargh!

So, other than “give me a few names of favourites,” is there a specific style you’d like to hear about?

A few gold-sellers from the Eastern side of the Atlantic: Mago de Oz, Celtas Cortos, Miguel Bosé, Mecano, Hombres G, Loquillo (y los Trogloditas), Fangoria, Triana, Rosendo… you should be able to listen to from Over There: part of their music is in “foreigner” but about half of it is in Spanish; their definition of “r’n’r” ranges from death metal to flamenco rock with everything in between and a few asides. I don’t know whether you’ll be able to get Cadena Dial, which is exclusively in Spanish.

Third vote for Juan Luis Guerra.

I love the sound of La Oreja de Van Gogh, a Spanish band… especially pre-2008 with lead singer Amaia Montero.

And although Mrs. Bricker is scandalized whenever I say this, I like bachata, a flavor of Dominican music that apparently carries some cultural baggage that turns her off. But artists like Luis Vargas and Leonardo Paniagua (whose “Amada, Amante” is amazing) are good examples of the genre.

Anyone have an opinion of Cucu Diamantes? I heard her on NPR and thought she was a hoot. I downloaded a free mp3 (Mas Furte) from her album CuCuLand, so it’s the only work of hers I’ve heard apart from what they played on the news, but I like her and think she’s fun.

You might like Amparo Sanchez or her old band Amparanoia, which has a bit of a Gogol Bordello factor.

Thanks everyone - there’s a lot to get through here!

I’m digging Desorden Publico, and some of Cafe Tacuba’s stuff. I’m listening to Juan Luis Guerra now, and I’m enjoying it, though I’ll probably enjoy it more once I can decipher more of the lyrics :D.

My Spanish teacher played the class Manu Chao’s ‘Me Gustas Tu’ the other day, but that’s all I’ve heard from him. How representative is it? That song’s, um…extremely repetitive. I did walk around with “que hora son mi corazon” singing it’s way through my head for hours afterward, but I have to say it’s not really my kind of thing.

Nava, I’m never sure what to say when I’m asked about specific styles…I listed a few English-language bands in the OP, I guess they’re mostly rock and pre-/post-punk. I tend to like music with a harder edge to it (punk’s okay, too, but I hate heavy metal!).

Unfortunately, I need to listen to a songs a few times before I really know how much I like it, but I’m trying to keep up with you guys! :p. I’ll let you know how I go on these as I listen to them.

Manu Chao’s style varies. I do agree that is one of his most repetitive songs. Amongst my favorites (in Spanish) are “Día luna, día pena”, “Clandestino”, “Desaparecido”, and “Si me das a elegir”.

Calle Go Lem is in a similar style (or more tecno-ish), and Manu and they collaborated in a song called “Me llaman calle” (about prostitutes).

BTW, Juan Luis Guerra has the BEST bachatas (check Bachata Rosa, an old album of his from the late 80’s/early 90’s). His are about the only bachatas I can listen to for long periods of time.

If you like Spanish guitars/maybe some pop flamenco, I repeat “Ojos de Drumba” and also Gypsy Kings.

If you like Café Tacuba and Desorden Público, other ska or ska-ish bands in Spanish are Los Rabanes (from Panamá, I like their earlier albums), and Fabulosos Cadillacs from Argentina. You want edge? Go for “Matador” or “Mal bicho” from Fabulosos Cadillacs.

Going even farther back than La Oreja de Van Gogh, but similar style, is Mecano. Think of them as the precursors of LODVG.

Ely Guerra, mentioned earlier, did some songs with La Ley for the later’s MTV Unplugged album, of which, IIRC, Mentira and El duelo are two of them, and are very good.

Sodastereo is another older rock group. One of their most well-known songs (and one of my favorites) is “De Música Ligera”.