x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Time for Spanish music to find its own voice

O'Funk'illo dissolved in 2006, and will commemorate the 10th anniversary of its formation by playing Madrid this month.

Rather like Spain itself, the nation's music scene is at a crossroads, facing down massive debts to other nations. Instead of representing a modern and recognisably Spanish style of music, most of the supposedly new sounds emanating from Madrid borrow heavily from American and British rock, US hip-hop and Latin American pop, withe perhaps the occasional nod to the past glories of flamenco. O'Funk'illo offer a prime example. Though the band dissolved in 2006, it will commemorate the 10th anniversary of its formation by playing Madrid this month.

O'Funk'illo emerged in the early 2000s, experimenting with different genres and rhythms, fusing funk riffs with reggae, flamenco and even metal. Tunes such as En el Planeta Aseituna, Fiesta, Siesta and Esso Cuenno stand up in their own right, but this band's story mirrors many others with roots that stem from the Movida. The Movida (movement) of the 1980s marked a turning point in modern Spanish culture. As the oppressive Franco dictatorship came to an end, Spain saw a new beginning and an explosion of creativity encompassing music, film, and literature and art - all driven from the epicentre of Madrid. The capital became a creative gateway, suddenly opening up the nation to foreign influences as democracy and liberalisation took hold.

As a city with a history of rebellion and dissent, Madrid took up this mantle with gusto. It became the voice piece of the nation, pouring out is collective heart and expelling its demons. At this time it greedily devoured a new world of foreign cultural influences: jazz, avant-garde rock and pop. The city absorbed new music genres such as UK's new wave and punk, or harked back to traditional forms such as flamenco, a genre rooted in the gitano (Gypsy) culture.

Over the 1990s and 2000s, Spain has grown self-confident and Madrid has emerged as a cosmopolitan and contemporary city. In tandem, Spanish music has evolved and produced its own versions of imported genres. For example, Pitingo, who is also playing Madrid this month, fuses flamenco, soul and gospel. Meanwhile, Filo & Fitpaldis, whose 2009 album Antes de que cuente diez topped the Spanish charts, combine infectious tunes with razor-sharp lyrics. And La Excepción Aguantando el Tiron, a hip-hop outfit from the outskirts of Madrid, has gained international recognition, named as Best Group in the 2006 in the MTV Europe Awards.

But among the Spanish acts that pay homage to the past or to musical genres that have originated from Latin America, the UK or US, it is difficult to tease out what could be recognised as a definitive Spanish music style. There is still the sense, even 30 years since the Movida revolution, that the best Spanish bands are still assimilating rather than originating, borrowing rather than pioneering.

It also says something about the lack of real superstars in the Madrileno music scene that O'Funk'illo - a product of post-Movida eclecticism - are coming out of retirement. Surely the post-Movida era has to come to an end and Madrid musicians must ask themselves what next? After all, the 30-year party, during which Spain flourished economically and culturally, is over. The nation is starting to hurt once again.

Which new Madrid band will give a voice to today's younger generation, who now face an uncertain future? Can the Madrid scene find a new musical vocabulary that is not a digestion of Anglo-US trends or a pastiche of it own traditions? None of the current bands seem ready to step up to the challenge so the search for Madrid's distinct musical voice looks set to continue.