Rosalía Responds to Criticism Over Being "Not Latina Enough" or "Not Flamenco Enough"

The songstress explains her point of view on her style of music.

By Samantha Schnurr Oct 10, 2019 9:04 PMTags
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Rosalía won't be put in a musical box. 

While she's amassed fame for her multiculturally inspired sound, the 26-year-old breakout Spanish star has also faced criticism about her music and identity, including claims of cultural appropriation. 

In Billboard's "Latin Power Players" issue, which the performer covers, the magazine asked her if critical claims like she's "not flamenco enough" or "not Latina enough"for Latin music bother her. "First of all, I was born speaking Spanish. My father is from Asturias [in northwestern Spain]. My great-grandfather is Cuban. My mother is Catalana [from Catalonia, an autonomous region in northeast Spain]. I grew up speaking Catalan and Spanish at home, and I have always listened to music in English. So it's natural for me to sing in these languages," she explained to the magazine. "I make music in Spanish because flamenco is my great inspiration. But a few months ago, I recorded a rumba in Catalan ['Milionària']. I sang in English with James Blake because he had a beautiful song, 'Barefoot in the Park.'"

As she put it, "Languages are like musical colors, like instruments you can choose. Today, musical barriers, like genres, are so diluted that they don't really exist."

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While discussing her English cover of "I See a Darkness," the star elaborated, "I always try to talk about all the cultural references that have inspired me. Artists always have been influenced by many cultures. Today, all cultures are connected, and it's something beautiful and worthy of celebration. Flamenco and my country always have been connected with Latin America. The flamenco cantes de ida y vuelta are a reflection of that: milongas, la guajira, la colombiana. They are considered to be of the flamenco tradition, but you can clearly feel Latin America's presence.

On the topic of breaking from the traditions of flamenco, Rosalía told the magazine, "I come from a generation that was born into globalization and the internet. That has changed everything. I never think of music as, 'Is this correct or incorrect?' I always think, 'Is this exciting or not?'"

After all, the songstress grew up with global musical tastes that influenced how she visualized her own work. "As a teenager, I grew up listening to [Spanish artists like] Lola Flores and Camarón and also 2Pac and Missy Elliott. So the visual landscape I got from those acts really made an impact on me and made conceiving visuals a very natural thing," she told Billboard. "Even though the cantaora traditionally sings sitting down, why do I have to do that in my video? I'm going to turn it around and conceive a video where I can simply dance in the streets. My priority always is to project the image of a strong woman. And when I work on video edits, I always prioritize attitude and strength ahead of looking pretty in a shot."

Now a Latin Grammy winner two studio albums into her career, she's following her own musical direction. "Ten years ago, I thought, 'Someday, I may have to make concessions because of the industry.' I wish I had known it would be like this. Everyone around me has maximum respect for my vision. Everything has been organic. I'm so happy I can make the music I want at any moment."