Meet Rosalía, The Spanish Singer Leading a Flamenco Reinvention

Eric Jamison/Invision/AP

Rosalia arrives at the 18th annual Latin Grammy Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Nov. 16, 2017 in Las Vegas. 

Get to know Rosalía Vila Tobella, who has made noise overseas by reviving the flamenco sound and style and is primed to become Latin music's next breakout star.   

FROM Sant Esteve Sesrovires, Catalunya, Spain   

AGE 25

SOUND OF THE STREETS Growing up outside Barcelona, Rosalía Vila Tobella discovered flamenco as it boomed from the sound systems of cars at the park near her school. “They had these tricked-out speakers, and they would open all the doors,” she remembers. At 13, she first heard legend Camarón de la Isla, marking a “before and after” moment. “Flamenco is the most honest and visceral music. You have to be sincere when you sing it. If you’re not, it doesn't work.”   

PRO TIP Rosalía learned guitar and piano, and by 16 was training in flamenco song at a Barcelona conservatory, where she also studied music production. In 2017, she released her first album, an acoustic flamenco throwback called Los Angeles. The Universal Music release has charted for 67 weeks in Spain.

TWEAKING TRADITION “Malamente” and “Pienso en tu Mirá,” singles from her new album, El Mal Querer, out this fall on Sony Music Spain, have helped bring flamenco to a new generation. They’re a taste of what to expect from Rosalía, who collaborated with producer El Guincho (Björk), known for embracing Latin beats and wide-ranging samples, and is also working with choreographer Charm La’Donna (Kendrick Lamar). “I try to do flamenco in tune with the moment that I’m living in, here and now,” she says.

SCREEN TIME Film director Pedro Almodóvar (Volver, The Skin I Live In) cast her in a new movie expected to screen at Cannes next spring. Meanwhile, her music videos have attracted an international audience: “Malamente” racked up over 16 million views in only two months on YouTube. “It’s a lot more interesting to dig into the popular music from where I’m from than adhere to some kind of standardized global pop,” says Rosalía, who will make her Los Angeles live debut at the Hollywood Bowl with Juanes on Sept. 5. “It’s our roots that really give us our identity.”

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 25 issue of Billboard.


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