The First Time I Heard Spanish
Her happy voice caught my ear as I passed by the house. She was laughing and sweetly teasing her children from her chair on the porch. I had no idea what she was saying, but in her natural speaking voice, she practically sang the most vibrant, expressive string of words I’d ever heard. In that moment, I realized I should have studied Spanish in high school, not French.
After that first trip to Honduras, I knew speaking Spanish would somehow become part of my life path.
Learning the Music of Spanish
Over the years, I studied Spanish in fits and spurts, but in the last 7 years, or so, I’ve really picked it up. It helped to move to Colombia for a year and half, and it helps that my partner is Mexican. It also helps that I dance salsa… because the salsa tradition delivers Spanish with high-quality music I love to hear.
Once you develop an ear for it, you may notice how beautifully Spanish lends itself to music. Spanish words are full of vowels, so they sing exquisitely, with airy, mantra-like ohs, ees, ehs, and ahs.
Listening to the Music
When I first started listening to music in Spanish, I could barely understand anything. Then one day, something clicked. Now, if I have my headphones in, I can understand almost every lyric I hear… just like in English! Point being: If you’re learning Spanish, keep listening to the music! It will come!
For those of you still training your ear, I know it’s easy to fall for songs with great melodies and rhythms only to discover later that they’re full of crude lyrics. That’s why I’ve compiled a playlist of popular latin songs, with lyrics in Spanish, that are not only safe for mixed company*, but also inspire the spirit and heal the soul.
Latin Music Culture
In the “Levanta el Espíritu” playlist you’ll find some of the great classic artists like Celia Cruz and Oscar de León, as well as modern stars Marc Anthony and Daddy Yankee. I’ve included latin dance styles like salsa, merengue, bolero, cumbia, pacifico, tropical, and bachata, as well as folk, rock, rap, hip hop, and pop.
All of the music has something uplifting going on in the lyrics, and some of it is downright profound. Jorge Drexler sings poetically about interconnectedness and non-duality. Celia Cruz reveals her deep bodhisattva nature. Residente rocks out on the power in the shadow side of life. All that mixes in with great latin music anthems that call us to dance to overcome our suffering, celebrate the beauty of life, and pay homage to our roots.
Get Ready for Your Next Trip
Hearing music in Spanish will help you learn vocabulary and turns of phrase. Singing along will teach your mouth the awkward acrobatics of inflection and pronunciation. Grooving to the beat feels like taking a mini-vacation to Latin America!
I hope you hear some of these songs on your next trip (or remember them from the last one). I hope you find a new artist you love. (psst… Orishas! Herencia de Timbiquí! Maná! ChocQuibTown!) Most of all, I hope the world of latin music, culture, and Spanish language opens a little wider for you. Happy listening!
Also find the playlist here.
La Vida (Respira el Momento) by Calle 13 is about opening to the vastness of life. The words “sexo, orgasmo” appear briefly in that context.
About the Author
Delana Thompson helps spiritually-inclined entrepreneurs express their hearts and expand their influence with authentic copywriting, project management, and professional delivery of their online content. Her clients include teachers and practitioners of meditation, yoga, ayurveda, shamanic healing, astrology, and fine art. When she’s not writing marketing emails or designing landing pages, you’ll find Delana salsa dancing, practicing meditation, planning a trip, listening to a podcast, speaking Spanish, or missing all her faraway friends. Visit Delana on LinkedIn to learn more about her business.