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At Sónar 2019, Spain’s electronic music scene shone

Sónar has always sought to support talent from its home country, and this year its programme highlighted the incredible creativity of Spain’s electronic music scene in 2019. Read about five key performances below

Sónar 2019 took place last weekend, from Thursday 18th to Saturday 20th July. The programme featured artists that exist on the bleeding edge of electronic music. House and techno, through to grime, electro, trap, hip-hop, IDM, ambient, and drum & bass, were all represented. Big hitters like Skepta, Underworld, Four Tet, Amelie Lens, Arca, Octavian, Peggy Gou, Lotic, Daphni, and HAAi all performed, whilst Stormzy also stepped in at the last minute to cover for the incarcerated A$AP Rocky.

Sónar also flies to flag for experimental electronic music, with the bill highlighting the impact that syncopated club sounds are having on soundsystems across the world. In this sphere, sets from Lao and Wasted Fates (of Mexico imprint N.A.A.F.I.), Slikback, 700Bliss, Catnapp, and Hibotep all garnered a big response on the dancefloor.

Elsewhere, DJ Lag called on the crowd to “support the gqom sound” after playing to a packed out SónarDome on the festival’s opening day. Gqom, a genre that DJ Mag dubbed “one of the most exciting electronic music movements to surface this decade” earlier this year, saw its presence at the event continued by Sho Madjozi and Faka.

The festival has always also looked close to home, too. Spanish artists made up almost a quarter of this year’s line-up, with a particular focus on the Catalan electronic music scene. Sounds like digital dancehall, trap, and Spanish hip-hop were all seen to be in rude health, and seem set to make a global impact.

You can read about five key performances from Spain’s burgeoning electronic music scene at Sónar 2019 below.

Bad Gyal

Hot on the heels of Rosalía, whose 2018 album ‘El Mal Querer’ made her one of Spain’s breakout stars, digital dancehall mainstay Bad Gyal looks set to become a global megastar this year after reportedly signing with Interscope Records. After her Sónar performance, it’s easy to see why, as she delivered one of the most swaggering displays at the festival to a packed out SónarVillage stage. Flanked by her four-strong street dance troupe, she worked through an hour of crowd favourites including 'Jacaranda', 'Open the Door', and 'D Way You Do Me'.

Speaking to DJ Mag about the Spanish electronic music scene at Sónar, she said, “I feel that we have something different here in Spain. We’re living in an era where everyone is looking for something fresh all the time, something that they haven’t seen or heard before. Spain is a country that has never brought a lot to the music scene internationally, but I feel like now we have something really exciting going, so it feels regular that people from other countries find it so interesting.

“I’m happy about the fact that they like to put local artists on the line-up here. Sónar brings a lot of different people from different places in the world. For me, when I performed this festival two years ago, it was a big opportunity as a lot of people from outside Spain discovered me there."

$kyhook

One of Spain most forward-thinking beatmakers, $kyhook has been pivotal in pushing hip-hop and trap in his home country in a more experimental direction. Perhaps best known for his work with Pedro LaDroga, on 'Skydrvg 1.0' and 'Skydrvg 2.0', $kyhook dropped his 13-track 'Moonchies' LP in June, which saw him collaborate with María José Llergo, Soto Asa, Israel B, Aleesha, and myriad more MCs and vocalists.

Opening SónarPub on the festival’s final night his live show — performed with live visuals alongside a VDJ — is a near 90-minute ride, finding the unchartered middle ground between deconstructed club music, hip-hop, polyrhythmic structures, raw breakbeat, gabber-like firing percussion, and trap. It's exhilarating from start to finish, and exudes pure class.

Titi Calor

Initially conceived as the creative output for Barcelona-based music consultant Anna Baqués, DJ Titi Calor has since become a regular at Trill Club and Garage442, as well as spinning alongside Rabit and DJ Lycox at Razzmatazz and Club Marabú.

Her set at Sónar was a masterclass in how to effortlessly manoeuver around the outskirts of electronic music, shifting through ambient soundscapes, reggaeton, twisted baile funk, dembow, gangster rap, and pop edits, before a final half hour of syncopated club music that closed on A Tribe Called Red’s anthemic ‘The OG’. It’s inventive, slick, and danceable.

Cecilio G

Cecilio G caused a mild uproar when he was announced for Sónar 2019. He'd been released from prison only a short time before, after being sentenced for robbery with force. His jail time — which he used to record the bars on ‘HAHAHAH’ — also forced him to cancel a tour of Argentina. Regardless, the self proclaimed King of Bogatell’s surrealist trap has garnered a huge audience, with viral tracks 'From Darkness with Love' and 'Gucci Sana' garnering over 30 million views on YouTube between them. 

He arrived at Sónar by Day on horseback, with his hair dyed in leopard tones, before performing holding an owl on a falconer’s glove. It struck DJ Mag as inhumane and in poor taste to bring animals into a busy festival environment, and certainly shows his deep-rooted desire to constantly court controversy. Like him or not, though, Cecilio G’s performance at the jam-packed SónarXS affirms him as Spanish trap’s best-loved rock star.

Enry-K

The production mind behind many of Cecilio G’s biggest tracks, Enry-K has figured himself as one of Spanish hip-hop’s most prominent beatmakers in recent years. He’s made music for Lil Moss’ Damed Squad, Dellafuente, and C.Tangana, but Enry-K has switched up his sound recently — bringing in elements of house, neo soul and future bass, which all featured in his warm-up set for Stormzy, on Sónar by Night’s SónarClub stage.

Speaking to DJ Mag at the festival, he said, “Most of this year's national line-up is part of the hip-hop scene in Spain, so it makes me proud to see the people that I used to work with being able to perform in a big festival such as Sónar. It feels great that people from all around the world recognise the talent of young Spanish artists.

“We have been making nonprofit music for years, without the security of knowing if one day we could live off this. Somehow, it is strange for me to stop being part of the hip-hop scene in Spain now. Just when it’s at the point where I wanted it to be all these years. Just when we can really earn money with it and be recognized for our work.

“But in the last year I felt that doing hip-hop — or trap, or whatever you want to call it — was not a challenge for me. I didn't have the same passion for it, so I started experimenting with my music and trying to work in new genres, and with new artists, from all over the world.”

Photos: Bad Gyal by Ariel Martini, Cecilio G by Leafhopper Project for Sónar Festival

Want more? Check out our Stories from the City: Madrid mini documentary.

Rob McCallum is DJ Mag’s digital editor. Follow him on Twitter here.