Concha Velasco, pioneer of Spanish Ye-Yé

General Franco, the Spanish dictator

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Las Chicas De España

Spanish Girl Singers from the '60s & '70s

During the last ten years of General Franco's regime, the dictator's grip on Spanish culture and society was loosening quickly. As Spain's population celebrated their new freedoms, and popular culture was given room to grow, young women across the country were casting off their long Spanish names, replacing them with short, catchy new ones, and enthusiastically throwing themselves into the world of song. Born soon after the end of the Spanish Civil War (early '40s thru the early '50s) this new generation of female vocalists enchanted the nation through sound and image. And while absorbing the musical repertoire of their counterparts in Britain, America, and the vast European continent, the ladies of Spain maintained a sound that was inherently Spanish.

In 1959, local promoters living in the Mediterranean seaside town of Benidorm- not far from the island of Ibiza- inaugurated the Festival De La Canción De Benidorm as an attempt to boost the local tourism trade. Inspired by the infamous Eurovision Song Contest and the slightly older Festival Di San Remo in Italy, the Festival De Benidorm lit the spark for a veritable mania of Spanish music festivals. By the end of the sixties, tourist meccas like Barcelona, Badalona, Mallorca, Málaga, and the Canary Islands all boasted their own song contests and festivals. Even the smallest towns played host to several music contests. The festivals needed talent, and the talent- namely the well-endowed females- was first in line to get their names on the roster. Weekly pop music magazines like Fans and Mundo Joven and general celeb-sheets like Lecturas and Diez Minutos were on the scene to cover the stars. The femmes of the festivals became singing celebrities in their own right and many of them became screen stars as well.

This musical renaissance flourished during a period the Spanish call the "años de desarrollo" (1961-1973), or the years of development. The Spanish economy grew at a faster rate than that of any other European country, and as a result, the country shed its widespread poverty and was able to achieve some semblance of economic equality with the rest of Western Europe. Spain also saw an incredible rise in tourism - the total number of tourists coming through Spain in 1973 was over ten times the annual number in the late '50s. This presented an interesting cultural scenario. As the massive influx of tourists brought their own cultural baggage to Spain, the youth of Spain was there to meet this international culture- to absorb it, alter it, and ultimately compete with it.

The Ye-Yé Scene

The term "Ye-Yé" was invented by the French and then adopted by the Spanish to refer to the new wave of beat-oriented pop music inspired by two foreign influences- the American "twist" sound circa 1961 and the subsequent "beat-boom" phenomenon of Britain. The famous Spanish singer/movie-star Concha Velasco helped define the "Ye-Yé girl" as a pop-culture icon in her smash hit of 1965, "La Chica Ye-Yé." As the lyrics explain, a Ye-Yé girl has "mucho ritmo" (lots of rhythm) and sings "en inglés, con el pelo alborotado, y las medias de color" (in English, with messed-up hair and colored socks). The early Spanish versions of Ye-Yé sound like an unabashed imitation of the French- who were in turn imitating the Brits and Americans. But despite the numerous influences, the Spanish flavor was clearly audible on the records. The rhythms, the dark tinge of gypsy scales, and a recurring sense of drama and passion represent the telltale ingredients of the Spanish sound. As the sixties progressed, so did the number of Spanish songwriters- a good indication that Spanish Ye-Yé was not all dodgy covers, but original songs and native sounds.

Top Photo Star: Karina

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