The idea of this blog has always been to write about flamenco, and this has not changed. But I have been contemplating for weeks now, whether to write about her. I have asked myself the same questions that the flamenco world has been asking for a while: Is she a flamenco? Is it flamenco what she does? Is it any good what she does? Is it bad what she is doing to flamenco? My answers may not be the same as of the flamenco world’s, but I have decided to write about her, because she is a constant topic among flamencos and as a matter of fact, in entire Spain. Including my Spanish family!
So let’s talk about Rosalía!
Rosalía Vila is a Spanish singer, born in Catalonia in 1993. From the age 20, she has collaborated with flamenco artists, like the guitarists Chicuelo and Alfredo Lagos, and in 2015 she worked with Rocío Márquez on the presentation of her album El Niño, produced by the producer/musician Raül Refree, on the Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona. Probably this is how she got to know Raül, who then produced her first album ‘Los Ángeles’ (Angels) in 2016, which made her famous all over Spain instantaneously. The album is versions of flamenco classics sang by Rosalía with the guitar of Raül. She received lots of praise and criticism, but just listen to the song Catalina and decide for yourself. Originally sang by Isabelita de Jerez, this is a re-work, not intended to be pure flamenco. As a lover of flamenco, and my daughter called Catalina, I get goosebumps every time I listen to the song. It’s so beautiful.
In 2018, she released a series of videos on her YouTube channel, (‘Malamente‘ and ‘Pienso en tu mirá‘), which went viral on social media, and were praised for their aesthetics and poetic symbolism. These were the first and third chapters of her new album ‘El Mal Querer’, which tells the story of a toxic relationship through different songs, each being a chapter of the story. It is written and produced by Rosalía, with the collaboration of El Guincho. The album was released at the beginning of November, together with the single of the eighth chapter of the album, ‘Di mi nombre‘, which is a tribute to the flamenco singer Repompa de Málaga, with a video clip quite experimental and conceptual, all recorded in one sequence! (Breaking news report that it may actually not be one sequence…)
I am not an expert in audiovisuals, but I am surrounded by people who are. I heard from them that the videos were made by famous Spanish producers Canada and Caviar, who have done many spots for TV, and are well known in the advertising/music world. Rosalía described in an interview how the creation happened on different levels: there is the album, the live concerts and the visuals in the videos.
A. says, first, she reminded him of Lana del Rey. I remembered M.I.A.’s Bad girls video when I saw the video of ‘Malamente’. Her inspiration definitely comes from varios artists, and she may have something from all of them. How original is she then? Well, she is definitely moved very well in the marketing world by some professionals, who know what sells well. (Last chapter of the super famous Spanish TV series ‘Cuéntame’ is called ‘Mal querer’. Is it a coincidence!?) But I also think that she created something new in terms of visual presentation and the representation of flamenco in the new waves of music, call it fusion, if you want.
She has been talked about extensively in flamenco circles (let’s not say criticised), because of the way she uses flamenco in her songs, and because of the representation of Andalusian and gipsy cultures in her songs. Her inspiration clearly comes from flamenco, and while lots of other artists are inspired by flamenco, what she has created is different. The aesthetics are beautiful, the songs are fresh, a mix of pop, trap and flamenco. Many songs have the Mellis participating, two twin brothers, professional flamenco singers and “clappers”. While the song ‘Que no salga la luna’ starts exactly the same as a pure flamenco song, you can also hear the sound of brakes, cars and motorbikes marking the rhythm in “De aquí no sales’. Or a tribute to Justin Timberlake’s Cry me a river in ‘Bagdad’! Is this new flamenco then? What is this?
I have to admit, I was very sceptical with Rosalía all through 2018. After the beautiful Los Ángeles album, I did not like the direction she chose with the bad girl image, long nails, guns, trucks, dancing in tracksuit on top of a car…….. The first two videos did not convince me. Then the third one came out, ‘Di mi nombre’, and the family chat was on fire again! Yes, no, beautiful, horrible and so on… my sister in law, C. shared an interview with us, and I heard Rosalía speak for the first time. This interview has changed my mind. I was amazed how she expressed herself, how she explained her ideas, and how this album was her final project in university! My preference in music is still different and I may never become a fan of this new wave, but it cannot be denied, that her projects are new, fresh, very well thought, well designed (well selling!) and executed with nice visual and audio results.
There is pure flamenco and there is new music inspired by flamenco. New is not always nice, but doesn’t necessarily have to be bad. It’s different. I do think that if flamenco is used in projects with this end result, that should only make flamencos proud! Because it shows the beauty of flamenco, taking it to another level and to a different audience. Without pretending to be pure flamenco, this only makes the world of music richer!
*Correction of the post “Flamenco Festival London” – published on the 30th of October 2018 – is required. I found out on the 11th of November 2018 that the date of the Flamenco Festival in London has been moved to the month of July as of 2019. This means that the program won’t be published and the tickets won’t go on sale until the spring of the same year. Flamencos, a bit more patience… We will get through winter somehow, and then bring on the hot summer London nights packed with flamenco! Olé!