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Spanish rapper C. Tangana was taking a big risk when he started mixing old-fashioned influences like flamenco and bossa nova into his hip-hop – but it’s that eclectic sound that made him a phenomenon on both sides of Atlantic.
The 30-year-old has become one of the biggest Spanish-speaking stars in the world since the release of his third album “El Madrileno” – the Madrilenian – in February.
This places him alongside his superstar ex-girlfriend Rosalia, the Grammy-winning Catalan singer with whom he has co-wrote several hits.
C. Tangana, real name Anton Alvarez Alfaro, has come a long way in the past decade, when he emerged as the voice of Spanish youth disillusioned in the wake of the financial crisis.
These days his rap is steeped in everything from reggaeton and rumba to deeply traditional styles of Spain and Latin America, with a voice often digitized by autotune.
“It’s amazing that when my music is the most popular, it’s exactly when I’m doing something a little more complex, more experimental and less trendy,” he told AFP. in an interview.
And he is not ashamed to appeal to a wider audience than before: his dream now is to make music “that a young person can enjoy in a club or that an older person can enjoy at home in cooking “.
– “ People are tired ” –
The rapper, who sports a severe semi-shaved haircut and pencil mustache, has worked with big names in Spanish flamenco including Nino De Elche, Antonio Carmona, Kiko Veneno, La Hungara and the Gipsy Kings.
In April, he brought some of them together for a performance on NPR’s popular “Tiny Desk Concert” series, which has already garnered nearly six million views on YouTube.
Stepping away from the trap, one of rap’s most popular subgenres, and venturing into a more traditional repertoire was a dangerous move – especially for someone with a young fan base for whom rumba, the bossa nova and the bolero seem old-fashioned.
“I think people are tired. They are fed up with the predominant aesthetic values ââthat previously defined pop and urban music,” he said.
Parts of his latest album were recorded in Latin America with Cuban guitarist Eliades Ochoa of the Buena Vista Social Club, Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler, Mexican folk artist Ed Maverick and Brazilian Toquinho, one of the big names. bossa nova.
âWhat struck me the most everywhere I went was the sense of tradition and the way people experienced the most popular music, and I’m not talking about pop,â he said. -he declares.
– A new direction –
C. Tangana started rapping in 2006 under the name Crema. When the global economic crisis swept through Spain a few years later, a hard-hitting trap was the perfect way to express the anguish of his generation.
But after more than a decade of rap, things have changed.
“When I was heading into my thirties I hit this crisis, I was kinda fed up with what I was doing … and decided to give a voice to all these influences that I never had. dared to express as a rapper, “he said.
The shift began in 2018 with “Un veneno” (“A poison”) which was released a year after its hit “Mala mujer” (“Bad woman”).
And there was a return to the sounds of his childhood when he listened to Spanish folk songs at home, raised by a mother who worked in education and a journalist father who loved to play the guitar.
Latin American influences came later.
âIt started when I was a teenager with reggaeton and bachata playing in the first clubs I went to which were mostly Latin,â he said.
Studying philosophy at the time, he wrote his first raps between stays in call centers or fast food restaurants.
As to what comes next, he doesn’t know.
But one thing he hopes to do is collaborate with Natalia Lafourcade, a Mexican singer who specializes in folk, rock and pop – another musical jack-of-all-trades.
Â© 2021 AFP