Música hispana - Music unites people from all different backgrounds and cultures

Escuchar a música (listening to music) is one of life’s great pleasures. It’s a fantastic way to aprender la cultura (learn about the culture) of the different countries around the world, and also a fantastic way to help you to learn a language. You can divertírte (enjoy yourself) and mejorar tu oído (improve your listening skills) at the same time – so let’s have a look at some different musical styles from around the Spanish-speaking world, and end with some useful vocabulary.

El flamenco

Obviously, you must have heard of el flamenco as it’s the most typical style of music and dance that people associate with Spain. Originating in Andalucía, a region in the south of Spain, it is un símbolo (a symbol) of Spanish culture to the outside world, despite the fact that it is only from one particular area.

There are three main parts to el flamenco el cante (the singing element), el toque (the guitar playing and percussion aspects) and el baile (the dance). Each of these elements are crucial in making the whole flamenco experience truly come to life. During the dance, the bailaor/a (flamenco dancer) can be seen playing unas castañuelas (castanets) – a typical Spanish percussion instrument held in the hands and clicked together to make a very distinctive sound. Many bailaores/as (flamenco dancers) are estrellas (stars) in their own right, and we’d definitely recommend you go to un tablao (a flamenco venue) in Madrid when you’re here studying Spanish to see a full show. It’s an amazing spectacle and you’ll definitely leave feeling energised and wanting to see more!

El reguetón

You might have seen this type of music written as “reggaeton”, and that spelling also gives you a bit more of a clue as to its origins. Developed in Puerto Rico in the early 1990s, el reguetón is related to the world of reggae and hip-hop, as well as the more underground dancehall style.

This style is all about rapped lyrics, danceable tunes and a more club feeling than other types of music we’re talking about in this article. It’s proven to be extremely popular with young people throughout the Spanish-speaking world and you’ll hear it absolutely everywhere when you’re living in Madrid learning Spanish. An early pioneer of the género (genre) was Daddy Yankee, who you might well have heard of, and more recent stars include Bad Bunny and Karol G.

La bachata

You might not have heard of this one, but la bachata is a very popular style in Latin America which came from the República Dominicana (Dominican Republic) and extended throughout the Spanish-speaking world. It’s full of ritmo (rhythm) and life, and it also has its own set of dance moves. These are performed with una pareja (a partner) and the resulting dance is a sensual one – so perfect for if you’re on the lookout for a romantic evening!

La bachata uses all sorts of instruments, from guitarras (guitars) to el bongo (bongo drums) and saxofones (saxophones) which combine together to create its unique sound. Recently, la bachata was declared as Patrimonio de la Humanidad (Intangible culture of Humanity) by UNESCO. When you’re here in Madrid, there are plenty of clubs where you can hear this amazing style so make sure you take advantage of the opportunity!

La salsa

Another typical musical genre which we’re sure you’ve heard of, la salsa is actually a fusion of Cuban and American dances which first became popular in New York in the late 1960s. There, immigrants from various Latin American countries developed the first salsa tracks, along with the typical dance routines which accompany this type of music. Nowadays, there are a variety of different styles, from New York, to Colombian, Puerto Rican and the original Cuban.

Interestingly, the name la salsa is also the Spanish word for sauce, which quite accurately describes the mixture of cultures present in the music and dance moves of this genre. Like la bachata, the moves in la salsa are all about moving your cadera (hips) and hombros (shoulders) with lots of giros (spins) mixed in for good measure. There are lots of places in all Spanish-speaking countries where you can try out this dance style, and many clubs in Madrid have salsa evenings so you can learn the moves, practise your Spanish and have a great night too!

And there you have four typical music and dance styles from the Spanish-speaking world. So you can understand some of the language used when talking about music, here’s some useful vocabulary to help you.

Géneros musicales – Music genres

Spanish English
El flamenco Flamenco
El reguetón Reggaeton
La bachata Bachata
La salsa Salsa
El tango Tango
El rock Rock
La música pop Pop
El jazz Jazz
El hip-hop Hip-hop
La música clásica Classical music
La música country Country music
La ópera Opera
La música electrónica Electronic music

Instrumentos musicales – Musical instruments

Spanish English
El piano Piano
La guitarra Guitar
La batería Drums
La trompeta Trumpet
El saxofón Saxophone
El violín Violin
La flauta Flute
El clarinete Clarinet
El arpa Harp
El órgano Organ
Las castañuelas Castanets
Los instrumentos de cuerda String instruments
Los instrumentos de viento Wind instruments
Los instrumentos de percusión Percussion instruments

Otro vocabulario – Other vocabulary

Spanish English
La letra Lyrics
La canción Song
El/La cantante Singer
El bailaor/La bailaora Flamenco dancer
El concierto Concert
El músico Musician
Cantar To sing
Bailar To dance
Oir To hear
Escuchar To listen

Hablamos - full-on Spanish!