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Meet Rosalia, the singer putting a modern spin on old-school flamenco

Namechecked by Madonna and inspired by Carl Jung and his collective unconsciousness

  • Published 10.07.19, 9:55 PM
  • Updated 10.07.19, 9:55 PM
  • 2 mins read
Rosalia performs in a concert at Sonar Festival on June 15, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. (AP)

Just when we thought our ears have unlinked with Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s reggaeton hit Despacito, boom… drops Con Altura by Spanish singer Rosalia (with J. Balvin and El Guincho). Still miles away from the former’s six billion-plus YouTube streams, the new track, too, is having a jolly time with over 500 million views (besides 155-plus million plays on Spotify) since its release on March 28. Here’s what our ears are up against this time around.

What is it?

Sonically, Con Altura is a cultural criss-cross paying homage to old-school reggaeton. Visually (directed by Director X), Rosalia shows off her wild side 30,000 feet up in the air inside an aeroplane that’s more like a nightclub. What begins with a hypnotic vocal loop, soon earns magic sparks with some cool reggaeton drums.

While the private jet zips away, the party in the clouds has Rosalia in the middle, singing Vivo rapido y no tengo cura/Ire joven para la sepultura, which translates to I live fast and don’t have a cure/I will go to the grave young.

Who’s Rosalia?

Rosalia Vila Tobella, known mononymously as Rosalia, 25, has been hailed as “the Rihanna of flamenco” by The New York Times. “Everything is in flamenco. Spirituality, loyalty, humility, valour. I grew up inspired by all these emotions, all these expressive colours,” said the Spanish girl, who is inspired by Carl Jung and his collective unconsciousness.

Her refreshing take on flamenco has made her popular among the youth. “The music is connected with my roots, with my culture, but it’s also connected with the rest of the world,” she has said.

Helping her gain international success is the global success of reggaeton from Latin America. As popular as her music is her videos, complete with Spanish iconography — matadors flagging down motorbikes, dancers in streetwear and shots that echo Goya. She was trained as a flamenco dancer before her breakthrough 2018 album El Mal Querer.

Her interest in flamenco blossomed at age 13 when she and her sister Pili would hang out near parks while souped-up cars would blare out music. “I would say, for me, flamenco is so pure, so raw. I love pop culture but sometimes I miss the root, the rawness. With flamenco, I felt like I always needed it, I just didn’t know it. It’s purer than anything else for me. If you don’t put the truth into it, it won’t work. I don’t know what it will be but it won’t be flamenco,” she has told The Guardian.

Growing up, she listened to Justin Timberlake, Destiny’s Child, Spice Girls and Britney Spears. Today, she is namechecked by Madonna and the likes. In a recent interview with Spanish radio station Los 40 Principales, she claimed that Madonna had invited her to perform at Madge’s 60th birthday party. Sadly, it didn’t materialise.

Among flamenco musicians, she admires Camaron de la Isla. Under the tuition of Jose Miguel Vizcaya, also known as El Chiqui, she enrolled at the Catalonia College of Music, which admits only one pupil per year to study flamenco. She graduated in 2017.

Success has come in leaps and bounds. Her recent performance at Glastonbury was beautifully choreographed.

After Con Altura

Her experimentation with flamenco continues with the new track F**king Money Man. “One day you want to be a millionaire and the next day burn everything, in reality, how much does money matter?” she said in a press release. “It seems so pure to look for it as to deny it and I think we’ve all felt love-hate for money once.”

The video is a mix of two tracks — Milionaria and Dio$ No$ Libre del Dinero. “Milionaria is the first song I’ve composed and I published in Catalan, it’s also the first song I do inspired by Catalan rumba,” she said.