It is often said that, to learn the language of a country, you must immerse yourself in the culture of the country. One of the better and most useful ways to do this without living in the country itself is by listening to its music. So if you’re looking to improve your Spanish but are not able to plan a trip to Spain or Latin America, here are 11 groups and musicians who can help!
1. Alejandro Sanz
Born in Madrid in 1968, Alejandro Sanz knew he wanted to dedicate his life to music when he was only a teenager. This was definitely not an arbitrary choice, as he could already play the guitar at only seven years old and started composing songs soon after. At the age of 16, he released his first record but it passed unnoticed, so he started composing songs for others. At the age of 23 he released his first well-known album, “Viviendo deprisa” (1991), which sold over 1 million copies, suggesting that a larger audience was waiting for him. Today he has sold more than 23 million copies, 16 albums, and has the most Grammys of any Spanish artist. Despite becoming famous, he is still the composer and writer of all his songs, so he deserves a place on this list.
2. Joaquin Sabina
Joaquin Sabina stands out not for being a great singer, but instead for his lyrics, with his songs considered poetry rather than music. In fact, he started writing poetry when he was only 14 years old. Since music was also a big passion of his at that age, he formed a music group with some friends. In 1975 he had his first performance in London and performed as a support act for Paco Ibañez, Lluis Llach and more. He was also in charge of the soundtrack of the BBC TV show, “The Last Crusade”. Since 1980, the year his first song was released, he has not stopped playing and doing shows with other artists – in 2007 he went on tour with Joan Manuel Serrat. The last award he received is from the magazine, Rolling Stone which awarded him the Best Singer of the Year in 2010.
3. Sergio Dalma
Born in 1964 in Barcelona, Sergio Dalma started his career very young and, at the age of 20, he had already performed as a singer as part of orchestras and choirs. After taking part in the TV contest, “Gent d’aquí”, he received an offer to record an album, which was released in 1989 with the name “Esa chica es mía” and was very successful. Due to this, he was chosen to represent Spain in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1991, and although he didn’t win, it made him very famous. The albums he released later appeared in the charts, competing with the likes of Alejandro Sanz and Enrique Iglesias.
4. Calle 13
Calle 13 was created in 2004 in Puerto Rico after René Pérez Joglar and his half-brother Eduardo Cabra Martínez had the idea of forming a music group. René is the singer and composer and Eduardo is the musician, music director and also composer. Their half-sister, Ileana Cabra Joglar, is the female voice of the group. The rap, reggaeton and hip-hop band is also known for their satirical lyrics which contain a social and political critique. So, if you like this music, this is the best group for you to improve your Spanish.
5. Enrique Iglesias
Probably the most well-known of these artists in English-speaking countries, Enrique Iglesias moved to Florida when he was only 7 years old and grew up there, making English his second language. Today, he records English versions of nearly every song he writes in Spanish. It was a big surprise to his family when, at the age of 20, he told them that he wanted to become a singer since he had never told them anything about it. In this same year, his first album was released. It was a big success and sold over 6 million copies in the worldwide. In 1997, he did his first tour with over 80 concerts in 13 countries. Today, Enrique Iglesias is a very successful artist with more than 200 gold records and 100 platinum records and, as we can see, he has not yet given any sign of stopping this long trajectory.
Rubén Pozo Prats and José Miguel Conejo Torres “Leiva” created “Pereza” in the late 90’s, but it was not until 2001 when a record company saw their talent and offered them a contract to record their first album. Although this did not make them as famous as the previous artists we have mentioned, it was thanks to this very first album that they were given opportunity to do over 100 concerts all over Spain and to be the warm-up act for other famous artists. In 2002, their next album, “Algo para cantar”, gave them the push they needed, allowing them to do an extensive tour of over 200 concerts and making them the opening act for Bon Jovi on one occasion. From that point on, their career kept rising, but in 2011, they decided to put an end to the group. Both members both released their own album, although “Leiva’s” has been far more successful than Rubén’s.
This band was formed in 1993 when Carlos Tarque (voice) and Ricardo Ruipérez met and decided to get together to form a band, convincing the other current members to join them. In the beginning, the 5 musicians from Murcia (Spain) played a mix of blues, soul and hard rock, and were even told to sound like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and others. In 1995 and 1997 they released two albums, but none of them reached the sales they expected. Even so, it gave them the opportunity to play with big international artists like Bon Jovi and Gun. It wasn’t until 1999 when they finally made a big step in their career with the album “Usar y tirar”, which brought them the MTV award for best Latin group in the year 2000. In the same year, they released their most well-known song today, “Carolina”.
Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez was born in the 70’s in Colombia. His family loved music and taught him how to play the guitar at an early age. That’s why, at the age of 15, he decided to create a band, which gained a lot of success, releasing five albums in eight years. The success of the group encouraged him to make the big step into starting a solo career when the band split up, recording his first album “Fíjate bien” in Los Angeles. It was a great success and got him 3 nominations at the Latin Grammys. Singing, writing, producing and playing the guitar all of his songs, Juanes’ career has only gone upwards, winning him a lot of awards like the MTV awards, Grammys, the Spanish “Premio Ondas” and more.
This duo was formed by two Spanish brothers from Cornellá (Barcelona). Born in the late 70’s, they didn’t complete their studies and started working in one of the factories of what today is SEAT. It was there, during the monotonous work in the factory, where the idea for their first song came. After playing in a few bars around their hometown, and seeing that the audience liked their music, they decided to record a song. The record company they sent it to liked their music style – a mix of rumba, flamenco and rock – and so the group were able to release their first album, “Estopa”, in 1999. After this, the number of sold records grew quickly, especially in the year 2000, when they received a lot of awards. Today, the group has still as much energy as when they began, especially since their last album, “Rumba a lo desconocido”, is from the year 2015 and they are still giving concerts.
This is a Mexican band, created in Guadalajara and initially called “The Spies of the Green Hat” in 1976 and later “Sombrero verde” (Green hat). Under the latter name, they released their first two records, but in 1987 they changed record company and also the name of the group to the current one, Maná, and which has since sold 50,000 records. The following year was not as good as the first, so they decided to change to Warner Music, and released “Falta amor” which sold over 750,000 copies. However, it was in 1991 when they really achieved fame all around the world with their album “¿Dónde jugarán los niños?” which sold over 1 million copies. Today Maná is one of the best known groups of Latin music in the world.
11. Efecto Pasillo
This group is a special choice of mine, since they come from the Canary Islands, where I also come from. The group had their first appearance in 2007 in a local music contest which they won by a landslide. Their first song was played on the radio stations of the Canary Islands and, during a concert, a producer from Barcelona liked their music and decided to represent the group. In 2010, they became famous throughout the country with their album, “Efecto Pasillo” and performed as support acts for other famous groups like “Hombre G”. In 2012, they published their most well-known song: “Pan y mantequilla”, which won the “40 principales” award for best song in 2012.
Of course, there are many more Spanish groups and musicians and this list represents only a small number. If you are looking for more music, here are some lists that you can check out. Enjoy learning Spanish!
It only comes once every four years but the 29th of February is here today! In the UK, it was traditionally the only day of the year that a woman could propose to a man (although times have definitely changed now!).
Here are some other traditions and superstitions from around the world:
1. In Denmark, if a man refuses a woman’s proposal on the 29th February, he has to give her 12 pairs of gloves and in Finland, they have to buy her fabric for a skirt.
2. In Greece it’s unlucky for couples to marry during a leap year, especially on the 29th February!
3. Italians are also not fond of Leap Years with one saying being, “anno bisesto, anno funesto” or “leap year, gloomy year”
4. Russians believe leap years are associated with strange weather and a higher risk of death!
5. In Taiwan, it is thought that parents are more likely to die during a leap year. During this time, a married daughter ought to return home in February and bring pig trotter noodles to her parents to encourage good health and fortune.
6. And here in Scotland, a leap year is also supposed to be a bad year for livestock. The saying goes “Leap year was ne’er a good sheep year”
Do you have any Leap Year traditions from your country? Let us know!
One hundred and nineteen countries around with world will host festivities to celebrate the Chinese New Year this year, also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival.
This year is the year of the goat but is also referred to as the year of the sheep as the Chinese character 羊 (yang) can be translated into either ‘goat’ or ‘sheep’. Those born in the year of the goat are traditionally considered to be kind and gentle but are also fiercely loyal and compassionate.
Each day leading up to Chinese New Year has its own celebration which includes dinners, parades, dragon dances, reunions and gift exchanges. Children are given red envelopes filled with money to bring them happiness and good fortune for the rest of the year. The colour red is everywhere during the festivities as, according to Chinese legend, the mythical monster, Nian was scared of the colour red and fireworks, which are also a key element in New Year celebrations. On the fifteenth and final day of the celebrations, red Chinese lanterns are released into the sky.
This funny advert shows some Chinese New Year traditions by telling the story of a hilarious contest between two competitive neighbours:
If you are interested in Chinese culture, why not learn Mandarin? We have classes to suit all levels from beginners to advanced. Each course is led by qualified native Chinese-speaking teachers in small groups to allow for maximum speaking practice.
We are also happy to arrange private or group tuition for professionals wishing to learn Mandarin, with courses taking place either from our language centre on Shandwick Place or at your office.
As a Frenchman coming to Edinburgh to practice and improve my English skills, I know that it’s important to immerse yourself in order to progress quickly in the language. It’s also difficult to have a real feel for the culture of your target language when you don’t really know where to look on the web. I made a selection of 16 French singers/bands that the French really like and listen to. It will be a perfect exercise to practice your French and discover our culture.
Wear your best headphones, pump up the volume and enjoy!
Having only auditioned for the eighth and final season of French talent contest, Nouvelle Star as a bet, eccentric chanteuse Luce Brenet, now known simply by her first name, might not have taken the show as seriously as the other contestants, but her eccentric fashion sense showed a disregard for convention, and her distinctive vocal style charmed audiences enough to eventually crown her an unlikely winner.
Born in the Languedoc-Roussillon area of Perpignan in 1990, her performing background was limited to a few flute recitals and amateur dramatic productions while growing up. At the time of her audition, she was preparing to attend a nursing college in Montpellier. However, her career ambitions changed when the judges, impressed by her rendition of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love”, put her through to the live stages. Despite never singing in public before, she sailed through to the final thanks to unique interpretations.
2. Christine and The Queens
France’s Christine and the Queens is the electronic pop solo project of singer, songwriter and dancer Heloise Letissier. Born in Nantes, France in 1988, Letissier studied theater at Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon before embarking on a music career. Inspired by the drag queens who danced with her while she performed, Heloise eventually adopted the Christine and the Queens moniker.
R&B chanteuse Shy’m vaulted to overnight success in 2006 when her debut LP, Mes Fantaisies, entered the French Top Ten. Born Tamara Marthe in Trappes on November 28, 1985, she began singing and dancing lessons as a child. After graduating at 17, she cut her first demo session and traveled to Paris, eventually befriending rapper K-Maro, who tapped her to guest on “histoire de Luv”, a single from his 2005 sophomore LP, Million Dollar Boy. Adopting the alias Shy’m – a moniker drawn from her reserved manner combined with her father’s Martinique heritage – she completed her debut, Mes Fantaisies, in 2006, scoring a pair of Top Five singles.
Je suis moi
Si tu savais
Combining influences as diverse as Jacques Brel, Cuban son, Congolese music, house, and hip-hop into danceable songs with thought-provoking lyrics, Stromae is a Belgian vocalist, songwriter, and producer. Known for his clean-cut look and trademark bow tie, Born Paul van Haver in Brussels on March 12, 1985 to a Belgium mother and Rwandan father, Van Haver was raised by his mother and developped an interest in music at an early age. When he was 11, Paul became a student at l’Academie Musicale de Jette, and started playing the drums.
Tous Les Mêmes
Alors On Danse
Serge Gainsbourg was the dirty old man of popular music; a French singer/songwriter and notorious provocateur for his voracious appetite for alcohol, cigarettes and women, his scandalous, taboo-shattering output made him a legend in Europe but only a cult figure in America, where is lone hit “Je t’Aime… Moi Non Plus” stalled on the pop charts at number 69.
Je t’Aime… Moi Non Plus
Bonnie and Clyde
6. Vanessa Paradis
French singer and model Vanessa Paradis first hit the charts in 1987 at the tender age of 14. Her single “Joe le Taxi’ spent 11 weeks at the top of the French charts, amd proved an international success as well. She recorded two albums in Paris before travelling to New York in 1992 to record her self-titles English-language debut, with one-time boyfriend Lenny Kravitz as producer.
Joe le Taxi
Il y a
Zazie was one in a long line of French models and actresses-turned-pop-stars rocketing to overnight success with her 1993 debut single, “sucre sale”. Born Isabelle de Truchis de Varennes in Boulogne-Billancourt on April 18, 1964, she grew up enamoured with French icons like Georges Brassens, Jacques Brel and Barbara and, at the age of ten, she began studying violin, soon adding piano and guitar to her curriculum. As a teen Zazie also began writing her own songs and continued working on original material while studying psychotherapy.
After graduation, she launched a career as a professional model, becoming a familiar face in French fashion spreads and adverts over the decade to follow.
Je Suis Un Homme
8. Julien Doré
Julien Dore is a French singer/songwriter released his first solo album in 2008, which was among the best-selling French albums of the year. Born July 7, 1982, in Ales, Gard, France, Dore studied at the college of Louis Feuillade as well as the Ecole des Beaux-Arts of Nimes, where he performed with the band Dig Up Elvis.
Chou Wasabi ft. Micky Green
9. Renan Luce
French singer/songwriter Renan Luce was born in Paris in 1980. He spent his childhood and teenage years in Bretagne, learning to play piano, the saxophone and the guitar, and writing his first couple of songs. He moved to Paris in the early 2000s and began playing regularly, eventually catching the attention of Universal Publishing’s Olivier Lefevre. He quickly obtained a regular opening act opportunity with Benabar, whose song writing acumen was actually lyrically quite similar.
-M- was the alias of French pop enigma Mathieu Chedid, an uncommonly idiosyncratic and far-ranging talent best known on North American shores for his contributions to the animated cult favourite Les Triplettes de Belleville. Born on 21st December 1971, in Boulogne-Billancourt, Chedid was the son of the French pop icon Louis Chedid and the grandson of renowned poet and novelist, Andree Chedid. As a teen, Chedid collaborated with fellow pop icons, Pierre Souchon and Julien Voulzy (children of the legendary song writing duo Alain Souchon and Laurent Voulzy) in a series of short-lived groups like les Bebes Fous and Les Poissons Rouges.
Qui de nous deux
Tété is a Paris based acoustic pop poet who sold 500.000 records over the course of a 15 year career between France, Japan, USA and Australia. His most acclaimed songs, “A La Faveur De L’Automne” and “Fils De Cham”, has, over time, turned into airplay classics. Having been nominated 3 times at French Victoires de la Musique and headlining 6000 seats Paris Zenith twice or Olympia hall 7 times in a row isn’t enough either. The man is now looking to new horizons with a mini-album in English. Some may refer to him as a pop version of Ben Harper, Tété remains Tété with his unique blend of strong melodic, blues tainted quirky pop songs with refined lyrics cut out for stage performances.
A la faveur de l’automne
Fils de Cham
12. Mickey 3D
Mickey 3D are an award-winning French alternative rock band who made their major-label debut in 2000 and grew increasingly popular over the course of the decade. Founded in 1996 in Saint-Etienne, Rhone-Alpes, the band is comprised of singer/songwriter Mickael Furnon (guitar), Aurelien Joanin (drums), and Najah el Mahmoud (keyboards). During the late ’90 Mickey 3D released a few demo tapes before the band was signed to a recording contract with the independent label Premier Disque and made its label debut with album Mistigri Torture.
Je m’appelle Jane
A throwback to the flower power era, ’60s revivalists Brigitte are a French female duo combining lounge-pop, retro-folk, and French cabaret to produce an authentic hippie-chic sound. Named in honor several of the decade’s icons (Bardot, Fontaine, Lahaie), Aurelie Maggiori, who had previously recorded under the name of Mayane Delem, and Sylvie Hoarau, formerly the lead vocalist in Parisian rock band Vendetta, formed their duo in 2008.
A bouche que veux-tu
14. Kendji Girac
Born in Bergerac, France in 1996, Kendji Girac is a passionate singer known for his gender-bending mix of Latin-infused pop, dance music, and contemporary flamenco.
15. Maitre Gims
A member of the groups 3e Prototype and Sexion d’Assaut, and also a solo artist as well, French rapper, and producer Maitre Gims (born Gandhi Djuna) originates from the Congo but moved to France with his family at the age of two. The MC grew up surrounded by music; he’s the son of vocalist Djuna Djanana. His first solo single was released in 2006, yet several years passed before he was able to concentrate on his own work. In May 2013, he released his first solo album.
Est-ce que tu m’aimes?
Black M (short for Black Mesrimes) is the stage name of Alpha Diallo, a French-Guinean rapper who first became known as a member of successful French hip-hop collective Sexion d’Assaut, which he joined in 2004. Diallo’s colorful personality and tongue-twisting rhyme style, often involving onomatopoeia and humorous wordplay, made him one of the mode celebrated members of the group.
Sur ma route
Le Prince Aladin
16. M. Pokora
Pop and R&B singer M. Pokora first rose of the fame with the boys band Linkup before going solo in 2004 for his self-titled debut, Matt Pokora. He could be described as the French Justin Timberlake – with the same boy-band roots and a similar penchant for fancy hats.