Spanish songwritting history: Some terms

(Note: this is a little serial about the 60-70’s Spanish folk and songwriting movement I’ve been writing evenly in this place. If you want to read it in Spanish, you don’t need more than clicking here : it takes you to the directory of entries in Spanish. Enjoy it!) 

1.- Some terms

Before beginning this history, I shall clarify some terms I will use.
Firstly, the term «protest-song» is not conform for that, because not all here is protest. So, indistinctly, I’ll use terms as «anthropological song»,  because the songs talks about the human beings, or «songwritings». In any way, I think there’s no definition that could be conform at all.


  • Conventional songwriter: a songwriter who likes of composes a pop music for his words. For example, Joan Manuel Serrat, Víctor Manuel or Patxi Andión. Any way, the term is not pejorative.
  • Austere songwriter: it points to those songwriters who, generally, was accompanied only by a guitar, a piano (at least on the stage) and maybe a second instrument. Some names that conforms to this model are Labordeta, Mikel Laboa or Pablo Guerrero.
  • Experimental songwriter: those who, besides their literary inspiration, explores their musical inspiration. Pau Riba is the great example, but also Pi de la Serra, Bibiano, Hilario Camacho or Lluís Llach.
  • Folk songwriter/ group: that or those who take their musical inspiration from traditional music.
  • Root music songwriter/ group: that/ those who play/ s traditional music as pure as possible. We must differentiate:
  1. Folk: genre that allows variations and performances of traditionals themes.
  2. Root Music: that which is just a play of traditional music.
  • Protest «Cantaor»: that singer who uses Flamenco for protesting (cantaor -untranslatable Andalucian word-variation of cantante– is a word that references only to a flamenco singer). Between them, José Menese, Manuel Gerena or Enrique Morente.
  • Singer-Performer: that who doesn’t sing his/ her texts. There are three kinds of them:
  1. Of other singers: that who sings songs from his/ her companions for publicizing the songs and their authors. For example, Rosa León or Massiel.
  2. With a fixed writer: that singer who has his/ her own writer. For example, Moreno Galván wrote the most of the words that José Menese sings.
  3. Of poets: the most numerous and usual; that who composes music for a poem of other. Paco Ibáñez is our great example.
  • Songwriting Muse: (this is a name I invented) points to female singers that usually sings themes from other authors. For example, Ana Belén, Marisol and Massiel.
  • Self-sufficient songwriter: songwriters that generally only sings their own texts. Aute, Guerrero or Labordeta are good examples.
  • Songs-providers: those songwriters that, besides, gives some of their songs to other singers. Luis Eduardo Aute, Pablo Guerrero or Hilario Camacho gave some of their best songs to other singer.

2.- Definition of Songwriting  

Like Torrego Égido and González Lucini (from both I’ve taken some ideas) I neither find a definition which could be exactly for this style of singing. Let’s see why:

  • Protest song or Political song: both terms, very specially the second, were invented by people, journalist and musical critics, close or in accordance to Franco’s regime with pejorative intentions. Firstly, it’s true that, in appearance, the most abundant is the political theme and the protest; but not everything is political -in a strict sense of the word-, but there are philosophical reflexions and not so political protests as humanists. It would be wrong saying that Raimon was a political singer and Serrat a romantic one: Raimon could write poems as romantics and tenders as his companion, and vice versa, Serrat could be as rebel as his friend.
  • Songwriting (Sp. Canción de autor; lit. Author’s song): this is a term more accepted, but has its troubles too. Although the word (in Spanish) is a translation from a French term that means «singer of texts, of messages», in the translation seems that anybody is a songwriter, because, in a wide sense, means «that singer who writes and composes his/ her own songs»: in this way, even Enrique Iglesias is a songwriter. The other trouble is that not all the songwriters are similar: it is not possible consider as same to Xerardo Moscoso, Laboa or Celdrán as other songwriters that maybe could be named conformists: they don’t talk about the same things, or in the same way. And, in the other side, with this definition, stay out people as important as Paco Ibáñez, who never or rarely has sung a text by his own, but from great Spanish and Latin-Americans in Castilian language poets: but Paco is a songwriter, there is no doubt.
  • Anthropological song is a term that González Lucini likes. It seems right to me, because they are songs that talks about Human-hood in general, of quotidian life and of what to it and to that one affects. The problem is that is very complicated to explain what this term means, and, besides, is very unpopular because nobody knows it and, even, could seems a little cold.

For that, I will use any of the two last definition (maybe «protest song», but no «political song»), because, although no one of them explains it exactly, between them they complement each other.

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