Have you heard the one about the donkey, the dog, the cat and the rooster? In this episode of the Coffee Break German Magazine we’re finding out about the famous Town Musicians of Bremen. First published in Grimms’ Fairy Tales in 1819, Die Bremer Stadmusikanten has become a key part of the cultural legacy of the German-speaking world. We’ll also hear from listener Nick who wants to know more about the small but versatile word doch, and Olivera is back with another long German word.
Listening to songs in the language you’re learning is an effective and enjoyable way to practise your language skills. It can help improve your listening comprehension and your pronunciation and, on top of this, music is catchy! This means that the new words, phrases and structures that you hear within a song may be easier to remember and reuse in your own speaking or writing.
Earlier this year we published a blog article titled ‘Language learning using your favourite songs’, in which we gave you our top tips for using a song to practise your language skills. But there are thousands and thousands of songs which exist throughout the Spanish-speaking world – where do you start with finding ones to listen to which will help you practise your Spanish? In this article, we’ve done the hard work for you! Read on to discover 5 of our recommended songs in Spanish.
1. ¡Y viva España! – Manolo Escobar, 1973
Our first song was actually written by a Belgian composer and Belgian lyricist, Leo Caerts and Leo Rozenstraten, and started out as Eviva España, a song about holidaying in Spain, imitating the Spanish pasodoble musical style (the name given to a style of Spanish dance and music often played during bullfights). It seems that the meaning behind “Eviva” in the title is unknown, but when the song was translated into Spanish, this became “Y viva”. Manolo Escobar’s 1973 recording of the Spanish version of the song was extremely successful. Escobar was a very well-known singer, actor and performer of Andalusian copla, a style of Spanish popular song. He began his career in a band with four of his brothers, called Manolo Escobar y sus guitarras.
After listening to the song a few times without reading the lyrics, we recommend following the stages described in our blog article on language learning through songs (see link above). There are many interesting language points to listen out for in this song. Don’t worry if there are some words you don’t recognise, as there are a few unusual pieces of vocabulary, for example, “fandanguillos y alegrías” are styles of Spanish music and dance. Listen out for the many different verb tenses used in the lyrics, including the line which uses both the present perfect and the future tense, “España siempre ha sido y será…” (“Spain has always been and always will be…”). And, of course, you may quickly notice the repeated subjunctive in the chorus “Que viva España” (“Long live Spain”), as this is expressing a desire that something will happen. If you’d like a reminder of how to use the subjunctive in Spanish and some common subjunctive triggers, have a listen to Coffee Break Spanish Season 3 Episode 39.
2. La Puerta de Alcalá – Ana Belén & Víctor Manuel, 1986
If you have ever visited Madrid, it is likely that the title of this next song will conjure up images of Madrid’s famous monument of the same name. Inaugurated in 1769, La Puerta de Alcalá is often associated with similar Roman arches such as the Arc de Triomphe and the Brandenburg Gate. Over 200 years later, La Puerta de Alcalá, the song, was written by Bernardo Fuster, Luis Mendo, Miguel Ángel Campos and Francisco Villar, to be performed by Ana Belén and Víctor Manuel. These two Spanish singers were married in 1972 and are often considered symbols of the Spanish Transition to Democracy, with many of their songs expressing strong social and political opinions. Their recording of La Puerta de Alcalá stayed at Number 1 in the Spanish charts for seven weeks and it remains an important song for many Madrileños because of its link with the monument.
The lyrics are interesting, as they contain several more complex phrases, and each verse of the song refers to a different sociopolitical event that has affected Madrid and its famous monument. Amongst the many language points to look out for within the lyrics, listen out for the refrain “Ahí está, la Puerta de Alcalá” (“There it is, La Puerta de Alcalá”). You can remember this line as a good example of using estar rather than ser to describe the position of something. Learn more about when to use ser and estar in Coffee Break Spanish Season 2 Episode 6.
3. En el muelle de San Blás – Maná, 1997
Our next song comes from a Mexican pop rock group formed in 1986, whose name, Maná, comes from the Polynesian term for supernatural energy. They have won 4 Grammy Awards and are extremely popular throughout Latin America and further afield.
Their song En el muelle de San Blás tells the story of Rebeca Méndez Jiménez, who is said to have waited at the pier of San Blás, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, for 41 years for her husband to return from a fishing trip. It is thought that he tragically got caught in a storm out at sea and never returned. One day, she was noticed by Fher Olvera, the lead singer of Maná, who listened to her story and decided to write the song.
The lyrics are a good challenge for your Spanish comprehension, so we recommend reading them as you listen to the song another time so that you can fully understand the story being told. They also contain many examples of the preterite and the imperfect tenses. You may like to find some of these in the text and think about why that particular tense has been used in that situation. To learn more about when to use these two tenses, join Mark and Kara in Coffee Break Spanish Season 2 Episode 20.
4. Color esperanza – Diego Torres, 2001
Born in Buenos Aires, Diego Torres is a singer, songwriter, actor and musician who is well known throughout Latin America, the United States and Spain. He is also known for being the son of famous Argentinian film actress, Lolita Torres. His uplifting song, Color esperanza, focuses on hope. In 2003, Torres gave a special performance of it in order to welcome Pope John Paul II to Cuatro Vientos Airport in Madrid.
Torres sings quite clearly and the lyrics aren’t too complex and, of course, contain many examples of language points you have been learning about. For example, note the interesting phrase in the chorus, “Saber que se puede, querer que se pueda”, which can be used to compare the use of the indicative and the subjunctive. This would be a good example to memorise, to help you remember the structures “saber que + infinitive” and “querer que + subjunctive”.
5. El mismo sol – Alvaro Soler, 2015
This last song was one of the hits of summer 2015 in Spain and across Europe. El mismo sol is the debut single of Spanish-German singer, Alvaro Soler. Following the success of the song, there are now various recordings of it. Soler collaborated with Jennifer Lopez to create a version with the addition of her vocals, and a version in Spanglish, El Mismo Sol (Under The Same Sun), with some lyrics in English.
The lyrics to this positive, upbeat song focus on the idea of a united world where “no hay fronteras” (“there are no borders”) and where “todos estamos bajo el mismo sol” (“we are all under the same sun”). And also, luckily for us, they are sung nice and clearly! We recommend reading the lyrics and trying to find some useful examples of the language points you have been studying. For example, note the double subjunctive in the first line of the chorus, “Yo quiero que este sea el mundo que conteste”.
We’d also like to take a moment to admire Soler’s impressive number of languages. It is said that he speaks Catalan, Spanish, German, English, Italian, French and Japanese!
We hope this article has given you a useful introduction to just a tiny proportion of the huge variety of Spanish-language music which is out there, across the whole Spanish-speaking world. Two of the songs we have chosen, La Puerta de Alcalá and En el muelle de San Blás, are already included in our Tune for Tuesday playlist. This is a feature that we introduced earlier this year. Every Tuesday we add another song with the aim of building up a playlist of songs from all over the world and in many different languages to help you develop your language skills and introduce you to some new styles of music. We are going to add these five songs to our new playlist, Tune for Tuesday – Spanish, which will contain only songs in Spanish. You can find this playlist on YouTube and on Spotify by clicking on the links below. And remember to keep up to date with Tune for Tuesday by searching for Coffee Break Languages and Coffee Break Spanish on Facebook.
What songs in Spanish do you already know and love? Feel free to share some of your favourites with us in the comments to help other Spanish learners discover them!