The Music of Spain

Oct 6, 2021

We’ve spent some time over the last couple of months really exploring some of this planet’s incredible music. We started out looking at the music of Brazil and Cuba, then Argentina and Chile. And last week we took a trip to Trinidad and Tobago for some island music! This week, let’s take this journey through our world of music across the Atlantic, and take in the music of Spain!

Music is an important part of Spanish life and dominates the nation’s celebrations and festivals. From the traditionally flamboyant and instantly recognizable flamenco, to contemporary rock and roll, Spain’s diverse regions both produce and enjoy a wide range of music. Let’s take a listen!

Classical Guitar

When you think of Spanish music, one of the first things that may pop into your head is the distinctive sound of a Spanish guitarist strumming away. And why not? Andalusia, Spain is the home of flamenco, and Catalonia is where the modern guitar was invented!

Spanish classical guitar was brought to a whole new level by artists such as Carlos Montoyo, Manuel de Falla, Joaquín Rodrigo, and Narciso Yepes. Many credit Andrés Segovia as the person most responsible for establishing classical guitar as a genre unto itself.


Macarena is likely the most recognizable Spanish pop song around. And it may surprise you to learn that it was just as popular in Spain as it was everywhere else! It’s true that what you usually hear in clubs and public places is American or British pop, but Spain has a strong pop scene too.

In fact, Spanish bands are famous for creating some of the catchiest pop songs you’ll hear, from Los Del Rio and their world-famous Macarena (which is still played in Spanish clubs), to David Bisbal, and more recently, artists like Aitana, who rose to popularity on the Spanish TV talent competition, Operación Triunfo.


If you were expecting Spain to be all flamenco and traditional music, this may come as a surprise, but Spain has a thriving indie rock community! The legendary Los Planetas are usually credited with the genre’s explosion in popularity, but more recently, local bands have been making waves, both in Spain and worldwide. Quirky bands like Pony Bravo and Fuel Fandango incorporate everything from rock to flamenco into their unique sound.


Back during the mid-1980s, Valencia had become the party capital of Spain. And one of the driving forces behind this party attitude was the music being played by a lot of DJs. Calling it “bacalao;” meaning “cod” in Spanish – a slang word Valencian DJs used to describe good music imported from abroad.

Although this music was hugely popular throughout the mid and late 1980, there are only a handful of clubs left in Spain that still play it. Most of which were around during the height of bacalao’s popularity.


Another genre that may surprise you by its popularity is jazz! Jazz music has a huge following in Spain, with festivals held all over the country in summer, from Barcelona to San Sebastián. Every city boasts at least a few venues that put on jazz shows with both local and international artists.


As one of the European countries where what we think of as “classical music” originated, Spain’s cities are home to some of the world’s most incredible classical concert venues. Major performances are held at Madrid’s magnificent Auditorio Nacional de Música, home of the Spanish national orchestra. In Barcelona, you can enjoy a concert at the eccentric art nouveau Palau de la Música, while Valencia’s Palau de la Música offers a full program of events featuring both local and national artists. Each of these cities, and many more throughout Spain, also offer countless open-air concerts in parks and gardens throughout the spring and summer.


One of the more traditional styles of music that continues to thrive in Spain is jota. This style of music, popular across Spain, is said to have originated in Aragon, but there is a lot of variation from one region to another.

However, despite the numerous region differences, all jota styles blend the guitar, castanets, tambourines, and on occasion, the flute. The music is also accompanied by a traditional style of dance, also called jota.


Another traditional form of Spanish music that has remained popular is zarzuela, a sort of popular opera which started out as a sort of court entertainment at the Palacio de la Zarzuela, near Madrid. This highly expressive musical form was suppressed after the Spanish Civil War by Franco as part of his effort to make Spanish culture uniform across all the country’s regions. However, the genre found new life and popularity after his death, especially with younger generations. Today, you can hear zarzuela on mainstream TV and radio.

Gregorian Chant

Surprisingly, one of the biggest national and international hits to come out of Spain in the last ten years was an album of Gregorian chants released by the Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, near Burgos. Their album, Las Mejores Obras del Canto Gregoriano (The Best Works of Gregorian Chant), topped charts around the world and sold more than five million copies. In Spain, the monks have become a household name.


Finally, the genre you’ve been waiting for! Flamenco is perhaps Spain’s most famous musical genre, which has helped make the southern region of Andalusia as culturally relevant as it remains to this day. Today, flamenco is enjoying a revival, both in Spain and around the world.

Although it is best known best for its passionate dancing and the colourful dresses worn by performers, flamenco can be performed without the dance. That said, it always features the cante jondo (deep song) of the gitanos (gypsies) of Andalusia.

Are you looking for a way to begin your own musical journey? Has your child shown an interest in learning to play an instrument or to sing? The Music Studio has programs for all ages – from children to seniors – all skill levels -from beginner to experienced – and a huge variety of instruments. Check out all our programs and sign up today!