Beyond the Mainstream: Spanish Artists Influencing Music Today

This article serves as an addendum and conclusion to: Top 5 Greatest Artists Making Music in Spanish Today

Jorge Drexler, C. Tangana, Rosalía, Bad Bunny, and Natalia Lafourcade are
by no means underground. It felt right to finish this missive covering with a little more ground beyond the shadows of those 5 giants. There’s too much going on in the Hispanic music scene to not mention at least some of it.

First and foremost, if you do like reggaeton you might find some jewels in neoperreo: a subgenre of alternative reggaeton music with more punkish and electronic aesthetics that was born online, by independent artists putting out their work, and mainly composed of female and queer voices with some feminist and anti-racist themes. Here we have Chilean Tomasa del Real, Argentinean Ms Nina, Spanish Bad Gyal, Mexican Sailorfag, and early Nathy Peluso, as well as the aforementioned Arca and Tokischa. This movement was a major influence on Rosalía’s MOTOMAMI and Kali UchisSin Miedo.

The Hispanic rap scene is just as exciting, and many new voices are currently rising among now classic Spanish and Latin American rappers, such as Canserbero, Residente, Control Machete, and la Mala Rodríguez, to make a name for themselves in this new generation. Some of my favorites are Argentinean WOS, Spanish Sen Senra, Mexican-American Snow Tha Product, Mexican Santa Fe Klan, Puerto Rican Young Miko and the youngest of them all, 17-year-old Dominican J Noa.

Influenced by the violent experience of youth among drug cartels, and mirroring gangsta rap in a war-torn Mexico, a subgenre of Mexican regional music has been recently blowing up in the global scene: corridos tumbados. The front-runner of this viral sensation has been Peso Pluma, going viral with “Ella Baila Sola”, “AMG” and “PRC”. The two latter hits feature the genre’s inventor Natanael Cano, author of “El Drip”, “Amor Tumbado” and “El Belicon”. Junior H and Fuerza Regida should also not go unmentioned when talking about this new sensation.

Before leaving Mexican regional music behind, I must first pay homage to the rising star of Mexican folk music: Silvana Estrada. This young singer and songwriter from Coatepec, Veracruz, and perhaps the only possible heir to the legacy of Natalia Lafourcade, has only released an EP, Primeras Canciones, and an album, Marchita, but that has been enough to leave an unforgettable mark in Latin American music. 

I would include Mexican bolero glam duo Daniel, Me Estás Matando and Puerto Rican Los Rivera Destino, however, with the likes of Argentinean Bandalos Chinos, Salvapantallas, and Daniela Spalla, Colombian Esteman, Californian The Marías, Mexican CLUBZ and Girl Ultra, and Chilean Gepe, Alex Anwandter, and Javiera Mena: in the front lines of Latin American indie pop.

Meanwhile, in Spain, we’ve seen the second coming of the tontipop subgenre: indie bubblegum pop meets punk in the voice of feminist and LGBT musicians from Madrid during the 1980s, as part of the post-dictatorship counter-culture known as la Movida Madrileña. This past decade has given us Cariño, Papa Topo, Los Punsetes, La Casa Azul, Axolotes Mexicanos, Tronco, Lisasinson, and many more.

Rock in Spanish has a long and rich history, endless books and documentaries have been made about the legacy of legendary rockstars Gustavo Cerati, Charly García, Luis Alberto Spinetta, and Fito Páez, to name a few—all Argentineans, by the way. To this day, the core of Latin American rock remains in the south cone. Él Mató a un Policía Motorizado, perhaps the greatest of the new era, is from La Plata. Las Ligas Menores, the best girl rock band in Spanish, is from Buenos Aires. Ases Falsos, with their poetic anti-system lyrics, are from Santiago de Chile. Behind the big three, an endless list could follow. I’ll humbly add El Kuelgue to it.

Finally, as you may have noticed, there is an important omission in this entire blog post. Shakira, arguably the biggest pop star Latin America has ever had, is nowhere to be seen despite just recently performing in the 2020 Super Bowl Halftime Show, dissing her cheating ex-husband in a BZRP Session for the ages, and earning the MTV Video Vanguard Award. Unfortunately, it remains a personal policy of mine to always honor her prime above anything else: the 4 albums she released from 1995 to 2005. Pies Descalzos, Donde Están Los Ladrones, Servicio de Lavandería, and Fijación Oral Vol. 1 are not only Shakira’s peak but some of the best music in Spanish of the past 50 years. 

Fin: Francisco's Nearest and Dearest Songs

As a PS for this lengthy letter, I simply wanted to leave you with 3 songs in Spanish that are very dear to me. The music in them is undoubtedly good, but it’s the lyrics what make them so special. None of them are particularly new, but they remain timeless as anthems for my land and their struggles: Latin America, La Patria Grande.


By Puerto Rican Calle 13, featuring Colombian Totó La Momposina, Peruvian Susana Baca, and Brazilian Maria Rita in the chorus.

Somos Sur

By Ana Tijoux, featuring Palestinian Shadia Mansour in the chorus.


Editors note: This article was written and this song was chosen prior to the heartbreaking situation in Israel and Palestine. The song selection is not intended as commentary or an official statement on the events by the author or the GLOCAL experience team. 

Para Todos Todo

By Spanish Manu Chao, features the recording of the Subcomandante Marcos’ voice when he read the Zapatista Army of National Liberation’s fourth manifesto: Cuarta Declaración de la Selva Lacandona.