Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 through October 15. It is a month to reflect and celebrate Hispanic culture’s influence in America. To help you get in the spirit we’ve put together a playlist of 15 Hispanic artists you need to know about. Granted, you probably already know about at least a few of these artists, since they’ve become international stars within the past few years. Usually we wouldn’t include superstars on an “artists you should know” playlist, but we know plenty of people who could still use a proper introduction to what makes ROSALÍA so special.
The Latin Grammy Award-winning artist entered the mainstream with the release of “Nathy Peluso: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol 36” (showcased below), where she participated in a recording session that rapper Bizarrap does with different artists. The track showcased her talent not only as a singer but also as a rapper. Her style is all over the place, with some songs taking an influence from hip-hop (fusing them with soul and the instrumentation found in salsa music). She has many singles considered to be feminist anthems such as “Business Woman” and “Mafiosa.” Her latest track, “Emergencia,” takes in more of a reggaeton approach fused in with some hyperpop influence (as you can also hear in ROSALÍA’s music). Also, that’s Nathy Peluso in the main image for this article.
This Argentinian band from the ’70s (literally translated to “Rabid Fish”) is considered to be one of the founders of not only Argentinian Rock, but also Spanish-language rock in general. The frontman, Luís Alberto Spinetta, was also involved with other well known projects, as well as his solo career. The 1973 album Artaud, considered as the greatest Argentinian Rock album by many sources including Rolling Stone magazine, was actually solely made by Spinetta, but under the band’s name for contractual reasons. His music undeniably influenced an entire generation of aspiring Argentinian artists that the country’s “National Musician Day” is celebrated on his birthday. This track, “Cementério Club,” showcases Spinetta’s undeniable talent as a composer and a guitarist.
Before involving himself with Pescado Rabioso, Luís Alberto Spinetta was already making an impact on the rock scene with his band Almedra. Heavily inspired by the Beatles and Argentinian folk music, Spinetta formed this band when he was only 17 years old. The album was critically acclaimed and the song “Muchacha (Ojos de Papel)” was a major hit, which helped push the career of the band members forward. But the track “A Estos Hombres Tristes” shouldn’t be ignored, as it resembles the sound Spinetta was going for with Pescado Rabioso.
The 29-year-old Spanish singer started her career as a flamenco singer, and then earned recognition in her country from her fusion of flamenco with avant-garde pop in the 2018 album El Mal Querer. She found her way to the global mainstream with her 2022 album, Motomami. An album mostly influenced by reggaeton, but also including more traditional Latin American elements on top of industrial sounding bass and drums. The album’s first single, “Saoko” seems to be a deconstruction of reggaeton, as well as her lyrics that talk about deconstruction and transformation: “Una mariposa, yo me transformo; Makeup de drag queen, yo me transformo” (“A butterfly, I transform myself; Drag queen makeup, I transform myself”). The song has already seen its way to the club scene, as well as in TikTok. And speaking of TikTok, her latest single “Despechá” currently has more than 1.5 million views on the platforms that feature it.
On the topic of reggaeton, we cannot ignore Bad Bunny, who currently is the sixth most streamed Spotify artist in the world. Think about that! At the time of this writing, more people were streaming Bad Bunny than were streaming Drake, Taylor Swift, or Coldplay. For a Hispanic artist to achieve this feat is the stuff of legends. This man simply knows how to make hits. He’s also appeared in acting roles, being cast as the lead in Marvel’s upcoming “El Muerto”. If you think you never heard anything from him, you might remember his feature appearance in “I Like It” by Cardi B, notably pushing his career forward. His latest single “Me Porto Bonito” (featured below) has already gained more than 690 million streams on Spotify in only four months.
Although he was born in New York and composes mainly in English, Nicholas Jaar, son of two Chilean artists, included themes of his country’s brutal past in his 2016 album Sirens. One of the songs, “No,” refers to the Chilean vote on re-electing dictator Pinochet to power. But in a pessimist outlook he sings: “We said no, but the ‘yes’ is in everything,” noting that the issues of the country’s past are still persistent to the present day. It’s a chilling track and will be Even if you don’t know anything about Chile’s history and politics, Nicolas Jaar will still amaze you with his inventive and pulsating electronic beats.
A singer whose history is deeply rooted in Chile’s past is Victor Jara. As well as being a singer/songwriter, he was also a teacher and a political activist. His revolt against the dictatorship present in his country ended up costing him his life, after being taken prisoner by Pinochet’s soldiers for his association with leftist ideals. When he was asked by soldiers to play the guitar (after hours of torture and humiliation), he instead sang the Chilean protest song “Venceremos” (which translates to “We shall prevail”). His life ended at the moment, but his story lived on. The 2019 post-punk/post-prog band Black Midi has a song called “Slow,” which uses this event as inspiration. Victor Jara’s songs were mainly folk-inspired, but they carried his political activism in the lyrics, dwelling in themes such as poverty and injustice. Two tracks that delve well into these subjects are “Te Recuerdo Amanda” and “El Derecho de Vivir en Paz.”
Known to some as the leader of the “Freak Folk” movement (also tied to the “New Weird America” movement/psychedelic folk) at the most recent turn of the century, this American-Venezuelan artist is also a visual artist, contributing to the cover art in several of his albums. Born in Houston, he moved to Caracas, Venezuela when he was two years old, living a great deal of his childhood there before moving to California at 14. The Freak-Folk attribution could be due to his weird approach to singing (which adds a lot of personality to the mix), surrealist lyrics and a return to acoustic arrangements. His earlier albums feel as if they were recorded spontaneously, even allowing the “bloopers” to become part of the song. This can be seen in the song recommended below. But Devendrá Banhart probably wouldn’t be satisfied with being labeled as a folk artist. (You likely already know his 2009 crossover hit, “Baby.”) He is constantly reinventing himself and also involving himself with a plethora of artists from around the world. He has a devoted passion for Brazilian music, and states Caetano Veloso as one of his biggest inspirations.
With his collection of songs that are just perfect for road trips, the French-Spanish musician Manu Chao also incorporates his multi-nationality in his music, including songs sung in Spanish, French, English, and more. He also applies his multicultural approach to his rhythms and melodies. In the recording of his breakout album, Clandestino, Manu Chao’s goal was to recreate the sound of street music and bars of various cultures around Latin America. The album took a while to gain recognition, but later gained a cult following. Nowadays he’s an instantly recognizable name in Latin America and Spain, having songs with up to 270 million streams on Spotify. His most famous tracks are “Me Gustas Tu” and “Bongo Bong.”
Starting out her musical career with Twist, a pop-group that would lip-sync while dancing to their songs onstage, Natalia Lafourcade proved her talent as a songwriter with the release of her eponymous album. The album received critical acclaim and reached No.1 on the Mexican charts. The tracks contained a mix of bossa nova and pop, added in with an inventive production. She’s collaborated as an arranger, producer or performer with a long collection of artists including Devendrá Banhart and Gilberto Gil. When she began to suffer from writer’s block, she started looking back to her country’s past, diving into its art and history. She sought inspiration from Augustin Lara, interpreting many of his songs. Her 2015 album Hasta la Raíz (To the Root) seeks to “find the connection with Mexico and its people again,” as well as looking into her own past and mysteries. She also took influences from Latin American songwriters like Mercedes Sosa, Violeta Parra and Caetano Veloso. The featured track comes from her latest album Un Canto por México, Vol II, where she interprets songs from Hispanic artists, as well as her own composition.
This Argentinian group from Buenos Aires was at one point considered to be the most important rock band in Latin America. They’re to this day the best-selling band in the history of Argentina. The group was formed in 1982 by vocalist and guitarist Gustavo Cerati, bassist Zeta Bosio, and drummer Charly Alberti. Influenced by Spinetta’s music and his undoubtful impact on Argentinian Rock, Soda Stereo also borrowed a lot from British rock and new wave. It gave the band a sound that wasn’t all too common in Latin America. By their third album they were touring all across Latin America, spreading their popularity outwards from Argentina and into the rest of the world. They eventually got noticed by MTV and recorded an unplugged session, which included the track “Té para Tres,” referencing the lick from Pescado Rabioso’s “Cementerio Club.” Later in their career they explored shoegaze. Unfortunately the sudden change in tone did not resonate with a majority of fans. After releasing seven studio albums, the band broke up and had their farewell concert in 1997. They later reunited in 2007 for one last concert, which quickly turned into three concerts after the first one was sold out in just three days.
Having more than 1,800 songs in his catalog, this Mexican singer is also one of the best selling artists in Latin America, and is considered to be a major pop icon in his country. Alongside his flamboyant style and powerful voice, he also had an eclectic song writing style, writing pop songs as well as rock, disco, ballads, and rancheras (traditional Mexican music that is usually accompanied with a mariachi band. He was also known for confronting gender norms although never being clear about his sexuality. When confronted with such questions about his sexual preference, he would respond with “Lo que se ve no se pregunta” (What one sees doesn’t have to be questioned). Which is a great way of answering a question without actually answering. His lyrics dealt with heartbreaks and romance, all sung with a melodramatic flair he added on top. You can see that in his most famous track “Abrázame Muy Fuerte.”
This Chilean group from the ’70s found success particularly in Brazil, where they met and recorded with legend Milton Nascimento, and were also able to record and release their first and only album … until recording another their follow-up a whopping 35 years later. During a tumultuous time in Chile’s politics, they had verses that strived for transcendentality and a look towards the roots of their country’s culture as it can be seen in the following lyrics: “Hoy traté de buscar la sombra del tiempo” (“Today I tried to search for time’s shadow”). Their instrumentation included the charango (a stringed instrument that was invented in Latin America), the mandolin, the flute, vocals and percussion. Their music gives the feeling that what you’re listening to is coming directly from the rainforest, including the sounds of birds in one of their songs (listed below) and simply a general appreciation for nature. You can also see an influence from tribal musicians of that region.
Jose Conde is a global eclectic pop artist and an alum of Berklee College of Music. His 2022 album Souls Alive in the 305 (305 referring to Miami’s area code) is rooted in his love for nature, appreciation for the absurd, and his Cuban-American reality. Conde says that the sound is inspired by the musical landscape of his youth in Miami, which includes everything from soul and funk, breakbeat, Miami bass, disco rap, rock ‘n’ roll, Cuban music, to salsa. He recently released a new music video for his jazzy, neo-soul single “Poetry in Motion,” which he wrote in the early ‘90s as a student at Berklee. Inspired by poet Kirsten Zanders who rode around the US on a purple Harley Davidson motorcycle, Conde says, “She was a positive, powerful force in purple leathers doing poetry readings in high schools and universities. She was in love with words and so was I.” The song features the vocals of Geminelle Rollins, who plays the role of the muse in his music video. The song and album were featured on WNYC’s Soundcheck.
Argentine singer Mercedes Sosa was instrumental in the El Nuevo Cancionero movement of the 1960s, which brought the songbook of Argentine popular music to broader audiences across the world, leading her to be known as the “voice of the voiceless ones.” In her lifetime she won six Latin Grammys, including a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and then two after her death at the age of 74 in 2009. Her most powerful recordings feature her lustrous hall-filling voice set atop delicate classical guitar. Listen to “Gracias La Vida,” (listen to the Mercedes Sosa version before you try out the Kacey Musgraves or Joan Baez versions) and you’ll also be saying “thanks to life.”