Music not only offers you the option to choose your favorite band and make Spanish acquisition more entertaining and less of a rigor, but also gives you the “bragging rights” of being able to sing to your friends in an exotic, alien lingo. So essentially, there seems to be little to lose in giving music a chance to teach you some Spanish. While you are free and urged to build your own list of favorites drawing upon your personal tastes, I am listing down my list of favorites here which you can use as a starting point in case you are as alien to Latino music as I was ten years ago.
Los Enanitos Verdes (Rock; Argentina)
If the Spanish you wish to acquire is that of Argentina, you would do yourself a great favor listening to this band. Not only do they have some of the best acoustics, but also heart-warming lyrics with deep meanings. They are an absolute pleasure to the ears and the lyrics tend to stick to your subconscious for eternity. Though almost everything they have done is a veritable masterpiece, I strongly recommend El Guerrero, Amores Lejanos, Guitarras Blancas, and Lamento Boliviano for the most discerning ears.
Malacates Trebol Shop (Ska/Rock/Pop; Guatemala)
The most dance-inspiring result of fusing Ska with Latino-Rock, Malacates Trebol Shop have probably the shortest of all discographies (only four albums) yet pack a whole world of punch and culture. Their hit single, also my top favorite, Tómame officially represented the 2005 summer campaign for Cerveza Gallo, the most popular beer in all of Central America.
Amparanoia (Latin/Reggae/Rock; Spain)
A delight for Spanish learners for her clarity, Amparo Sánchez (the lead singer and founder) has the rich bluesy voice that rings in your head for years even if you listen to her just once. While the band’s debut album, El Poder de Machín was bright and exuberant with a heavy Latin influence, their 2002 album, Somos Viento was a more acoustic blend of Cuban and Reggae forms. Amparo’s lyrics offer social critiques drawn from daily life and this is what makes this band ideal for anyone aspiring to acquire Spanish organically and rapidly.
Chavela Vargas (Ranchera; Mexico)
|Chavela Vargas: La voz áspera de la ternura|
photo credit: Raúl Serrano licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
Cultura Profética (Reggae; Puerto Rico)
One of the best representation of the legendary Carribean sound, complete with touches of Ska, Jazz, and the quintessential Afro beats, and Funk, Cultura Profética have the fresh and chilled sound that’s just perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon study. Their lyrics used to draw heavily on socio-political issues (until La Dulzura, where the emphasis is on romance) which is great for those whose dream Spanish is Puerto Rican Spanish.
Lucha Reyes (Música Criolla; Peru)
Luchila J Sarsines Reyes is La Morena de Oro del Perú (Peru’s Black Woman of Gold) and is perhaps the most definitive voice of Peru one can ever afford to hear. She was symbol of Peruvian nationalism and this nationalist pride and heartbreaking love can clearly be heard in her legendary lyrics. The genre, Música Criolla draws heavy influences from indigenous and African roots and has a lush and romantic character. A brilliant starting point for Spanish enthusiasts is her self-titled album.
When most of North America celebrates Halloween, Peru observes the Día de la Canción Criolla (Day of the Creole Song) marking Lucha’s death anniversary. Today, Lucha is to Peru what Pelé is to Brazil.
|Manu Chao is a close friend of Amparo Sánchez|
Photo credit: Luis Tamayo licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
Manu Chao (Reggae/Son/Salsa/Pop; France)
With Basque and Galician roots, Manu Chao is a French singer who sings in many languages including Spanish. His Spanish numbers are excellent for Spanish learners due to their complex grammatical constructs, rich Latin American colloquial jargon, and the transparent rendition of the Hispanosphere’s socio-political landscape. Other than being one of the most accessible window to the Latino culture, Manu Chao’s songs are too ubiquitous to be ignored; his is a familiar voice in any bar or club anyplace in the Spanish-speaking world. A close friend and some-time collaborator of Spain’s Amparo Sánchez, Manu Chao is an absolute must-have on any Hispanophile’s iPod.
Already keen on starting with your own collection of Latin music? Check out our section on learning Spanish through music – the possibilities are endless!