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Rock en español

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Title: Rock en español  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Gustavo Cerati, Soda Stereo, Argentine rock, Rock music, La Secta AllStar
Collection: Latin American Music, Rock En Español, Spanish Music, Spanish-Language Music
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Rock en español

Rock en español is Spanish-language rock music. While the term is used widely in English, it is used in Spanish mainly to distinguish such music from "Anglo rock". It is a style of rock music that developed in Spain, Latin American countries and Latino communities, along with other genres like Caribbean ska, reggae, and soca. Successful musicians and bands playing in this genre are often noted for being "crossover" artists, as this genre inherently bridges both linguistic and cultural boundaries.


  • History 1
    • Regional scenes (1950s–1970s) 1.1
    • Repression in the 1970s 1.2
    • Internationalization (1980s) 1.3
    • Recent times (1990s onward) 1.4
  • Rock en español in the United States 2
    • Rock en español in California 2.1
    • Chicano rock 2.2
  • Other variations 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5


Regional scenes (1950s–1970s)

Spanish-speaking rock music began in the late-1950s, through listening to performers like Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and Bill Haley, who popularized rockabilly in the United States. The first Latin rock bands appeared during this time. They included Peruvian acts like Los Millonarios del Jazz, Los Stars, Conjunto Astoria, Los Incas Modernos, and Los Zodiacs. In 1958 California-born Ritchie Valens covered the Mexican folk song "La Bamba", popularizing Spanish-language rock music throughout Latin America. That year, Daniel Flores, another son of Mexican immigrants born in California, often called the "Godfather of Latin Rock", performed his hit song "Tequila", introducing this music to the United States.[1][2] In a sense they were creating their own "Refried Elvis" ("iQue viva el rock!"). The new sound immediately struck the attention of the middle and upper class.

The first rock bands in Latin America were created in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Some of the bands were Peace and Love, Enigma, Ritual, Love Army and Alex Lora's long-enduring Three Souls in My Mind. Several Mexican groups like Los Teen Tops, Los Blue Caps and Los Locos del Ritmo recorded Spanish versions of rock classics by Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Buddy Holly among others, which gained them popularity in Latin America. Successful covers included "La Plaga" ("Good Golly, Miss Molly") and "Popotitos" ("Bony Moronie"). However, it wasn't until 1962 when artists like Palito Ortega began creating original hits in Spanish like "Dejala Dejala", "Bienvenido Amor" and "Despeinada", that Latin American artists would move away from covering American rock classics.

By mid-decade the Mexican (later US citizen) Carlos Santana moved north to California and soon joined the burgeoning San Francisco rock scene. Forming the band Santana towards the end of the sixties, he would gather a shifting group of musicians from mixed Anglo-Saxon and Hispanic backgrounds; the band would become one of the more popular acts of the 1970s in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe and brought together elements of rock 'n' roll and jazz with Latin percussion and harmonics (as evidenced, for example, on Abraxas (1970) and Moonflower (1977)). The band would consistently alternate lyrics in Spanish and English; they were arguably the most successful crossover Latin/Anglo rock band to date, and were important in spreading interest in Latin percussion and drumming around the world.

Although he does not consider himself a Rock en Español musician, Carlos Santana's background is that of a traditional Latin musician who has fused rock guitar (and jazz and salsa rhythms) with classic Latin American songs. His hit song "Oye Como Va" is an example of Santana's fusion, being a song composed by famous Latin jazz and mambo musician Tito Puente.

In the early 1960s, a style of commercial rock music called Nueva ola (New wave) became popular in several Latin American countries. In Spain, the mid-1960s produced the bands Los Bravos, Los Brincos, Los Z-66, Bruno Lomas y Los Rockeros, Los Canarios, Los Cheyennes, Fórmula V, Lone Star, Micky y Los Tonys, Los Mustang, Los Pekenikes, Pop Tops, Los Salvajes and Los Sírex.

Mexican bands like Los Lobos and the Malo group play in parts of the United States and on the radio. In Mexico other groups like La Revolución de Emiliano Zapata, Three Souls in my Mind, Toncho Pilatos, Javier Batiz (the teacher of Santana in Tijuana), Peace and Love and others played songs in Spanish and English.

The late 1960s in Argentina brought a movement called "rock nacional" (Argentinean national rock). With a distinct musical style, it has become one of the most popular styles in that country, along with tango and folk music. Bands and musicians responsible for the movement are Los Gatos (led by Litto Nebbia), Arco Iris (led by Gustavo Santaolalla), Almendra (led by Luis Alberto Spinetta), Vox Dei, Sui Generis and Serú Girán (both led by Charly García). Argentinian national rock is linked with the sexual revolution of that country and the spirit of freedom against military dictatorships.

Repression in the 1970s

In Mexico, the music was popular among a large group of rebellious youth, and the authorities began to stop the spread of this new genre of music. The government forced artists, labels and radio stations to go "underground" as they associated the music with the breakdown of societal standards ("iQue viva el rock!"). The main pushing edge that created tension with the government was due to the Avándaro Rock Festival in 1971 ("Festival de Rock y Ruedas"), in which there were over 200,000 participants. Due to its importance in the Mexican rock, the festival has been considered as a kind of "Mexican Woodstock". The festival was allowed due to the massacre of students in Tlatelolco (Zolov).

Internationalization (1980s)

It was from Argentina that Spanish-language rock begun to be internationalized crossing the boundaries of countries to which each band had previously been more less limited to. Soda Stereo is largely credited as the first Spanish-language rock band to gain widespread popularity across Latin America. However, there was equal transnational success in the late 1980s from fellow Argentines Enanitos Verdes, Spain's Hombres G, Peru's Frágil, and Chile's Los Prisioneros during the same time period. Following Soda a series of other bands from Argentina, but also notably from Mexico, begun to grow audiences all across the Americas, such as Caifanes, El Tri, Los Abuelos de la Nada, and Divididos, among others. Rock bands from Spain that flourished during and after La Movida Madrileña failed to gain popularity in Latin America during the 1980s. Latin American population by listening to rock in their own language - influenced by the musical phenomenon that was taking in Spanish from the beginning of the 1980s called "La Movida madrilea" (Ventura).

Recent times (1990s onward)

The final amalgamation into a coherent international scene was helped by the introduction of MTV Latin America in 1993, where the first video shown, "We are sudamerican rockers" by Chilean band Los Prisioneros, reflected its aims to create a Latin American scene. In the late 1990s, MTV created the Latino Award in the MTV Video Music Awards and Premios MTV Latinoamérica in 2002, awards that recognize the talent and achievements of the genre. However, MTV Latin America was criticized for focusing primarily on rock bands from Argentina and Mexico, with the occasional band from Chile or Colombia. For example, bands on MTV Latino that received very regular airplay were Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Mano Negra, Café Tacuba, Soda Stereo, Aterciopelados, Maldita Vecindad, El Tri, Las Victimas del Doctor Cerebro, La Cuca, La Lupita and Babasónicos. This ignored other movements, such as the punk rock movement in Chile, or the chongo rock in Peru (e.g. Arena Hash, Los Nosequien y Los Nosecuantos, Sangre Purpura, and Micky Gonzales). Reference source "MTV Latin America's First Annual Video Music Awards" for further information.

In the 1990s bands like Los Rodríguez and Héroes del Silencio bridged the gap between Spain and Spanish-speaking America by being the first rock bands to become popular both in the Americas and Europe.

In the late 1980s to mid 1990s, bands like Los Tres (Chile) among others. The new bands were able to be successful through the development of the music video in the 1990s.

In the 1990s, rock bands experimented with fusing rock music and Latin American folk and African rhythms, with bands like Divididos, Las Pelotas, Los Piojos, Bersuit Vergarabat, Babasónicos, Catupecu Machu and La Renga.

The Avandaro Music Festival lost its spark and never truly became a tradition as artists and styles trend more towards an electronic beat (Zolov).

There are some bands which achieved a huge national success but for some reason never abroad. The globalization is spreading the influential radius of these bands such as Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota or Extremoduro.

Rock en español in the United States

Rock en español in California

Rock en español borrows heavily from rock and roll music and traditional and popular music of Spanish-speaking countries such as cumbia, ranchera, rumba, and tango. In its 50-year history, it has evolved from having a cult-like following to being a more well established music genre.

In Los Angeles, an underground scene has developed and continues to flourish that supports the local rock en español acts. Top bands from the LA REE scene include Motita, Pastilla, Maria Fatal, Rascuache, Voz de Mano, Cabula, Las 15 letras, Verdadera FE, and Los Olvidados.

Record labels that have supported US based REE include Aztlan records, El Mero Mero Records, and Mofo Records.

Chicano rock

Chicano Rock Music is rock music performed by Mexican American groups or music with themes derived from Chicano culture. Chicano Rock, to a great extent, does not refer to any single style or approach. Some of the groups do not sing in Spanish at all, or use any specific Latin instruments or sounds. The main unifying factor, whether or not any Latin American music is heard, is a strong R&B influence, and a rather independent and rebellious approach to making music.

Other variations

See also


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