10 Catalan Artists to Know: Sopa de Cabra, Txarango & More
The current conflict has placed a new international spotlight on Catalan identity, but the strength of Catalan culture is a constant.
Today, (Oct. 27) members of Parliament in Catalonia voted to declare independence from Spain, after a month in which media pictures of protests and police violence have replaced the habitual tourist snaps of Gaudi buildings and creative cuisine in the public imagining of Barcelona. The current conflict and uncertain future – as Spain seems poised to impose direct rule – has placed a new international spotlight on Catalan identity, but the strength of Catalan culture is a constant.
Regardless of what their political views are, artists from Barcelona and the surrounding area may naturally sing in Catalan, simply because it expresses who they are, but they also sing in Spanish, English and other languages. Their music (ranging from poetic folk ballads to indie rock, Mediterranean and Latin fusions, flamenco and punk) represents the diversity of Catalan culture, Barcelona’s cosmopolitan nature, and often a sense of social consciousness and an altruistic, idealistic, or sobering realistic world view – sometimes all in the same song.
Here are ten Catalan artists you should know.
A party band to save the world, Txarango can best be described as the personification of good vibes. The group’s concerts, where hundreds of people can be seen singing to their yes-we-can anthems and poignant ballads with messages of hope for the world, are as irresistible for adults as the circus is for children (and kids love Txarango too). The band’s most recent recording, El Cor de la Terra (The Heart of the Earth), which includes a guest spot by like-minded artist and social activist Manu Chao, stands at number ten on the current list of Spain’s most streamed albums of 2017.
Sopa de Cabra
Fathers of the movement known as Rock En Cat (rock in Catalán), Sopa de Cabra formed in 1986, and by 1990 were performing for a crowd of 70,000 at a free outdoor concert in Barcelona. The band broke up in 2001, and after reforming to tour together in 2015, are bringing their music back to diehard fans and a new generation of Catalan speakers.
Antonio Orozco represents the sector of Barcelona’s population who migrated to the city from Southern Spain – and for whom flamenco is a part of life. Orozco started playing flamenco guitar as a teenager, and the gravel-voiced Latin Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter has since become one of Spain’s biggest pop artists.
Manel (a common Catalan first name) is a folk-pop band from Barcelona whose laid-back sound has garnered fans around Spain. The group has had three number one songs on the Spanish charts. ”A lot of people have told us that they are learning Catalan with our songs,” band member Roger Padilla said in an interview with Madrid’s El Mundo newspaper.
Love of Lesbian
Love of Lesbian has opened for The Cure and drawn crowds at SXSW, and a solid following in Mexico and South America. The irreverent Catalan indie pop band, a favorite of Spanish critics, has recorded albums in both English and Spanish.
Silvia Perez Cruz
Silvia Perez Cruz makes everything her own, from Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” to “Chorando Se Foi,” the song that inspired the Lambada craze, taking you on a trip with each of her songs. Possessed with a roving vocal range and infinite emotion, Perez Cruz performs in Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese and French.
Joan Manuel Serrat
Barcelona’s most famous musical son when it comes to popular song, 73-year-old Joan Manuel Serrat is both an icon of Catalan pride and a Spanish treasure (his song “Mediterráneo” has been elected the favorite track in various surveys by national media). Putting emphasis on the message in his songs in Catalan and Spanish, Serrat has spoken out in favor of peaceful debate in the current Catalan conflict.
The Barcelona band formed at the back of a classroom found quick success in the U.S. with their covers of indie rock anthems and defiant original songs sung in the international tongue of adolescent angst (English). Signed to Brooklyn label Captured Tracks, they recently emerged from a squabble with their Spanish label which stopped them from touring and releasing their sophomore album in Spain.
Jarabe de Palo
Best known for the song “La Flaca,” Jarabe de Palo, the band and alter ego of Barcelona singer-songwriter Pau Donés, is one of Latin Alternative music’s most enduring acts. His recent sold-out concert at Barcelona’s opera house was an emotional homecoming.
With songs in Catalan, Spanish and English, Mishima embodies the cosmopolitan and life-embracing and socially-conscious nature of Catalan indie rock and pop. On the eve of the Oct. 1 referendum, the band announced it would perform consecutively during the day in several schools in Barcelona to ensure that their doors would not be locked by police.