ABBA is firmly in our minds thanks to the new Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again film and news of Cher’s upcoming ABBA covers album. They’re also firmly on our mind because in the midst of this explosion of interest for Latin beats and Spanish-language music, it’s important to honor ABBA as one of the original Latin music believers.
Nearly two decades before the 1990s “Latin explosion,” or even the rise of Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine, ABBA realized the potential of the Latin music market and in 1980, releasing an all-Spanish album, Gracias Por La Música (Thank You For The Music).
The album wasn’t a whim. ABBA had tested Latin waters earlier with a Spanish language version of “Chiquitita” that was a huge hit throughout Latin America, and later, a Spanish version of “I Have a Dream” titled “Estoy Soñando.”
For Gracias, the group included songs that already came with Latin flair – namely “Hasta mañana” and “Fernando” – as well as hits like “Mamma Mia” and “Conociéndote, Conociéndome” (Knowing Me, Knowing You). The group enlisted the help of a Spanish journalist to coach in pronunciation, and there are multiple videos that show Björn Ulvaeus being interviewed in excellent Spanish and defending his project for Spanish-speaking fans.
In other words, ABBA did that reverse crossover all the way, from inception, to execution to promotion, respecting the language and attempting to understand the culture as opposed to simply capitalizing on a current trend. On subsequent albums, ABBA included one or two songs in Spanish versions for their Latin fans, the same formula that would be applied years later by the likes of Ricky Martin and Shakira when they recorded English albums.
In 1993, the group’s Spanish language songs were released under the compilation Oro, which reached No. 37 on the Top Latin Albums chart (dated Dec. 25, 1993) and No. 15 on Latin Pop Albums (also chart dated Dec. 25, 1993). And of course, there’s the Spanish language version of the musical.
As for those of us who grew up in Latin America listening to ABBA in Spanish, many of us thought given their titles that “Chiquitita” and “Fernando,” had been written, in Spanish, for us. Heck, I still think the Spanish versions are better. Check it out: