Photo credit: scannerFM
Borja Malet, from Catalunya, has been working for five years in Barcelona’s Hotel Pulitzer weaving his musical magic at the rooftop terrace, and throughout the building – bar and restaurant. We get his insights about the evolution of the Barcelona music scene and its eclectic collision with 70s rock, Catalan Rumba, Indie and Electronic Funk.
The three music genres
So how is an outsider to get to grips with the incredible Barcelona music scene?
Borja sketched out a background – three music genre types:
“Firstly 70s rock, protest songs against the Franco dictatorship and genuine ‘Catalan Rumba’ which began with gypsies from Andalucia who came to Catalonia in the sixties, looking for work. An easy flamenco sound”.
Borja advises to check out the London record company, especially “Soul Jazz Recordings” and look for its Rumba collection from Barcelona, in the 70s and 80s.
‘Gipsy Rhumba’ was also an intriguing musical culture clash, that took place in the early 1960s in Catalunya. The hybrid style, with lots of clapping, blends together Latin and Rhumba music of Latin America and the Caribbean with native Flamenco as well as Rock and Roll. The Sunday Times called it “a forgotten corner of Europop.” Part of the Barcelona music scene is the photography of Jacques Leonard, a French photographer who began documenting Gypsy life in rural and urban Spain after marrying a Spanish gypsy.
Next was “Indie pop – Catalan style, from about ten years ago.” Look out for these influencers in the Barcelona music scene:
- Joana Serrat. She works with Arcade Fire
- Antònia Font (from Mallorca)
- Mishima. The lyrics are ‘costumbrista’, meaning the daily goings on of young people’s lives.
And lastly, Electronic Music.
“It is important to say that Barcelona is starting to be famous not only for the annual music festival Primavera Sound (May/ June) and Sonar (progressive music and multimedia arts, June), but also because of a genuine Barcelona music scene, with the DJ John Talabot (debut album Fin, 2012). He has now been at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival , in Indio, Valley Music and Arts Festival California.”
Borja’s passion for music began at the age of 12 when his brother gave him a tape which had The Cure, New Order and David Bowie. “My friends at school were listening to Spandau Ballet or Rick Astley. This was different and I started to make tapes for friends and people who were also interested.”
He started DJ-ing when 19 years of age, at the same time studying Economics at university. “When I hear a new song I go back to being that kid of 12 years, sharing the passion of music”.
Borja has seen the changes in the city that give the wider context to the Barcelona music scene:
“Barcelona used to be very different. It changed with the Olympic Games in 1992 which put it on the world map. The city grew, modernised and improved in many aspects, but also lost parts of its old identity.
“As so often happens with big cities when they modernise, it became more expensive in the centre. You saw the city change, the infrastructure was modernised and town planning improved, with a clean up of the sea and beaches were cleaned up. Before you couldn’t swim in the sea, the port area was full of garbage. But there were cheap and good restaurants!
“Big international fashion brands opened up luxurious stores, but on the other side of the coin older and traditional businesses had to close down because they couldn’t afford the rises in rent.”
Borja estimates that he spends 40 percent of the day listening to music. For something peaceful, “tranquila,” he opts for jazz, folk, soft electronic or classical. “Maybe baroque music, to relax … Bach, Handel.”
And he enjoys all types of jazz, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Johnny Hartman, also Billie Holliday, Anita O Day … Tommy Dorsey, Harry James …
“And, of course, more current music!”
His tips to us are to look out for:
Borja also recommends we check out SoundEat (organised by him), a combined music and street food festival, held four times a year:
“In the nineties many pop groups who sang in Catalán were of dubious quality. This meant that when idependent music took off, the new indie groups preferred to sing in English, or even in Spanish, to avoid being associated with them!
“But a new wave came with Mishima (now in their late 40s, with a bit of a hipster look), who first sang in English and Spanish, and then sang in Catalan, and Manel (a male band, now in their mid-30s).
Before the 90s, in the 70s, the most important music in Catalan was Rock Laietà.
“They were hippies, against Franco, and all for freedom and liberty … psychedelic rock. This was strange music for those years in Spain.”
Music hot spots to visit in Barcelona
Borja recommends these venues to experience the best of the Barcelona music scene:
Heliogàbal in Gràcia for live music and a good night out. Heliogàbal functions as a cultural association and has years of experience promoting poetry and music projects, painting and photography, books, magazine and fanzine launches. It also works with independent record labels and publishers. Prices are welcoming, often 5 to 10 Euros. (Carrer de Ramon y Cajal, 80, 08012 Barcelona, Phone:+34 936 76 31 32)
Razzmatazz in the Poblenou neighbourhood, to the south east of the Sagrada Familia. Friday and Saturday are your nights to enjoy indie rock downstairs at the Razz Club, and techno upstairs at The Loft and Lolita. The Pop Room and the Rex Room are more relaxed spaces oriented to pop, electro and disco acts. (Carrer Almogàvers, 122, 08018 Barcelona, Phone:+34 933 20 82 00)
Mitsa-Apolo is another one to check out the Barcelona music scene, Friday and Saturday, for electronic music (Nitsa) and its famous “Nasty Mondays.” (12 am) “Recently there have been thousands of people coming from London and Sweden,” Borja says. (Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 113, 08004 Barcelona, Phone:+34 933 01 00 90)
PiknicElectronic. From the end of spring to the start of the summer, enjoy Sunday parties for or brunch and a major party. Electronic music from 13 midday to 10 pm.
Check out Barcelona Life for all other happenings in the Barcelona music scene.
Music at Hotel Pulitzer
For your experience of the Barcelona music scene at the Pulitzer Terrace, come on Wednesdays, open 6 pm to 12 am with live pop, electronic and funk groups from 8 pm.
Thursday welcomes you with sets with DJs from different clubs, 7 – 10 pm.
Friday “These Charming evenings” with Borja Malet, 7 – 10 pm.
Sabado Vermut and Domingo Vermut on weekends, midday to 4 pm.
Check out the line-up on Pulitzer Music.