Spanish music

Rock, pop and other genres

Spanish music

Music of all kinds, from flamenco to rock, jazz to classical, is extremely popular in Spain and an essential ingredient of any festival or fiesta. Spain has a wealth of traditional folk music and dance, particularly flamenco and classical guitar, which are popular throughout the country.

It’s renowned worldwide for its classical guitar, made famous by Andrés Segovia, Carlos Montoyo, Manuel de Falla, Joaquín Rodrigo and Narciso Yepes. An international festival of the guitar is held in Córdoba in July.

Rock and pop music is popular with young Spaniards and there are many excellent home-grown bands, although the most popular music is American and British. Among the most popular forms of Spanish pop music are root-rock ( rock-con-raíces), a sort of rock version of flamenco singing, and rave music ( bacalao/baKalao). Madrid has the most lively and varied music scene, although the Catalans are recognised as Spain’s most serious music lovers, particularly with regard to opera, jazz and Catalan song. Jazz has a large following in Spain and jazz festivals are staged in many cities in summer, including Barcelona, San Sebastian, Santander and Sitges.

Spain’s most popular crooner is Julio Iglesias, who has sold more records in more languages than any other musical artist in history (over 160m albums) and has earned some 200 gold and platinum records. However, one of Spain’s biggest national and international hits in recent years was surprisingly the Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo de Silos (Burgos), whose album of Gregorian chant ( Las Mejores Obras del Canto Gregoriano) topped music charts around the world selling over 5m copies.

The Spanish pop music industry, in common with that in most countries, has suffered badly at the hands of pirate copies of compact discs (CD) sold by immigrants on the street for around €3 and popular artists ‘sell’ more pirate copies than legal ones. Statistics show that since 2000 legal CD sales are down by a third and one out of every four CDs sold is a pirate copy. Despite spectacular police raids and arrests of the copiers and sellers, including one where CD and DVD recorders capable of producing 60m copies a year were seized, music piracy is a major problem facing the future of the Spanish music industry.

Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia all stage classical music concerts. Major concerts in Madrid are held at the magnificent Auditorio Nacional de Música ( ), home of the Spanish national orchestra ( Orquesta Nacional de España/ONE). Annual concert cycles are also performed by the National Orchestra and Choir of Spain, and Spanish Radio and Television at the Teatro Real in Madrid. Free open air concerts are held in summer by the city band in the Templete del Retiro in Retiro Park. One of the most popular forms of music in Madrid is Zarzuela, a form of light opera or comic operetta in the style of Gilbert & Sullivan, performed in the Teatro de Zarzuela. In Barcelona, major concerts are held at the eccentric art nouveau Palau de la Música.

Spain also stages a wealth of excellent music festivals, including a festival of religious music ( Semanas de Música Religiosa) in Cuenca at the end of March; the international festival of music and dance ( Festival Internacional de Música y Danza) in Granada in June/July (Spain’s most important musical event); the Santander international festival ( Festival Internacional de Santander) of music, dance and drama in July/August; the international music festival ( Festival Internacional de Música) in Barcelona in September/October and the autumn festival in Madrid from mid-September until the beginning of October (includes concerts, opera, drama and ballet). Top international soloists, bands and orchestras give concerts in Spain throughout the year.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in Spain.
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