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    “Spanish singer Rosalía responds to critics’ accusations of Flamenco and Latinx culture appropriation.”

    Rosalía gives her most powerful response to date in defence to the criticism that she has received for appropriation of Flamenco1 and Latin American culture. 

    Although the singer has had months of almost record-breaking success within the Spanish music industry, she has also been involved in some controversy especially when it comes to the allegations that she has appropriated flamenco and Latino cultures.  

    Her latest controversy arose after the singer won two awards at the 2019 Latin Grammy Awards (Best Album of The Year award for her second studio album, “El Mal Querer” and Best Urban Song award for hit “Con Altura” alongside Colombian reggaeton 2 artist J Balvin). The term ‘latino’ in the U.S refers to cultural identities of Latin American origin, and therefore is exclusive to countries in America. Rosalía however is Spanish and because of this the critics argue that she should not have been considered in the Latin category. They believe that since she was born in Europe it is easier for her to outshine other Latin American artists who are trying to make a name for themselves in less privileged contexts. Rosalía addressed the backlash she has been receiving in an interview with Billboard on Thursday as part of a special magazine issue called “Latin Power Players”, a list of the most significant figures in Latin music. During the interview, Colombian journalist Leila Cobo asked Rosalía if it bothers her to be told that she is “not Flamenco enough” or “not Latina enough” for Latin music.

    “First of all, I was born speaking Spanish. My father is from Asturias3 , my mom is from Catalonia4, while my great-grandfather is Cuban. I grew up speaking both Catalan and Spanish at home and have always listened to music in English so it’s not unusual for me to sing in those languages”,she explained. “I record music in Spanish because I’m hugely inspired by Flamenco but just a few months ago I recorded a rumba 5 in Catalan (“Millonária”). I sang in English with James Blake because of the beauty of the song “Barefoot in the Park”. Rosalía told Billboard “Languages are like musical colours, like instruments you can choose from. These days, the boundaries between different musical genres are so diffuse that they cease to be relevant.”

    Leila added that this can also be seen in Rosalías first studio album, “Los Ángeles”, where she sang an English cover of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s “I See Darkness”.

    “That’s because I love the song”. “The whole album is basically my tribute to Flamenco, but the song was very much in sync with the lyrical themes of the album, so I thought why not include a cover of it?”, she responded. “At the end of the day, I don’t think anyone is going to accuse Picasso of cultural appropriation because he painted African tribal masks.”

    Rosalía is aware that cultural appropriation is a sensitive subject. She explains, “I always set out to talk about the cultural references that have inspired me. Artists have always been influenced by different cultures. Nowadays, all cultures are connected and that is something so beautiful that it deserves to be celebrated. Both Flamenco and Spain have always had links to Latin America. The Flamenco ‘cantes de ida y vuelta’6 are a reflection of that, like “milongas”7, “la guajira”8, “la colombiana”9. They are musical genres that are considered to be part of the Flamenco tradition, but you can feel the Latin American presence in them”.

    Going on to address how she breaks the boundaries of musical genre in her music, Rosalía says: “I come from a generation that was born in the age of globalisation and the internet. So that has really changed everything. I never think of music as, ‘Is this right or wrong? Instead, I think, ‘Is this exciting or not.'” 

    This is something that also applies to her visual instincts, which have distinguished her from the rest of the international stars who are succeeding at the moment. “As a teenager, I grew up listening to Spanish flamenco singers like Camarón de la Isla10 and Lola Flores11 , but also to 2Pac and Missy Elliot, so the visual references I got from those performances really had an impact on me and made coming up with visuals a naturally easy thing to do.” 

    “Even though traditionally the Flamenco singer sings sitting down, why would I have to do that in my music video?”, she said. “I am going to turn it around and make a video where I can just dance in the middle of the street. My priority is always to paint an image of a strong woman and when I work on the video edits, I try to emphasise attitude and strength over just looking pretty in a shot.” 

     Luckily for Rosalía, her success has also allowed her to enjoy greater freedom. The several hundred million views of her YouTube videos, the hype that always surrounds her singles and music videos, and the two Latin Grammy Awards she already has in her trophy cabinet speak volumes. “Ten years ago, I had this thought, ‘Someday I may have to make compromises because of the industry’. I wish I had known that it was going to be like this. Everyone around me has the utmost respect for my vision and everything about it has been organic. I’m so happy that I can make the music I want at any time.”

    Rosalía may look into the future with more hope than ever before as just this week the renowned magazine “Pitchfork” ranked the album “El mal querer” as the 37th best album of the last decade and the song “Malamente”, 23rd of the best songs. To top it all off, the singer appeared on the latest cover of The New York Times Magazine with the headline: “Rosalía’s incredible journey from Flamenco to superstardom”. It couldn’t have been summed up better.