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MUSIC

OBIT: Top Spanish conductor Jesus Lopez Cobos

Top Spanish conductor Jesus Lopez Cobos, who wielded the baton at a clutch of top ensembles including the Spanish National Orchestra and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO), has died of cancer aged 78, his entourage said Friday in Madrid.

OBIT: Top Spanish conductor Jesus Lopez Cobos
Photo: AFP

Lopez Cobos, born in the small town of Toro in northwestern Spain, died in Berlin where he had notably been general music director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin through the 1980s before following up a decade with the CSO with a seven-year spell at Madrid's Teatro Real.

The Madrid institution said it was saddened to note the loss of “one of the great figures of the international music scene”.   

“Spain has lost one of the music world's greats,” said Minister of Culture Inigo Mendez de Vigo.

“He was one of Spain's most prestigious and notable active orchestra directors,” he added.   

On its Facebook page, Toro town hall declared three days of mourning after the loss of “one of its most illustrious sons”.   

Lopez Cobos' services remained in high demand well into the twilight of his career as far afield as Japan and China and the United States.   

He regularly conducted a swathe of other top orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Symphony, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna Symphony.

He was also Principal Guest Conductor with the London Philharmonic in the early 1980s, following a 1978 debut with them.   

The Madrid-based Conciertos Vitoria agency hailed Lopez Cobos, who initially studied philosophy in Madrid, as an artist who “loved his work above all else,” and said he would be buried in his home town.

Other top venues that saw Lopez Cobos take the baton included Milan's Teatro alla Scala, London's Royal Opera House and the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

He was also a recipient of Spain's prestigious Prince of Asturias award for the arts in 1981.

Lopez Cobos enjoyed conducting a wide palette of works by an abundance of composers but had particular affection for Georges Bizet, Manuel de Falla, Maurice Ravel and Gustav Mahler.   

In operatic terms, his favourite work was Mozart's “Cosi fan tutte”.   

But he especially had a predilection for Brahms' Requiem, whose third movement includes the line, “Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am.”

MUSIC

Meet the Spanish rapper bringing flamenco and bossa nova into hip-hop

Spanish rapper C. Tangana was taking a big risk when he started mixing old-fashioned influences like flamenco and bossa nova into his hip-hop -- but it's this eclectic sound that has turned him into a phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic.

Meet the Spanish rapper bringing flamenco and bossa nova into hip-hop
Spanish rapper Anton Alvarez known as 'C. Tangana' poses in Madrid on April 29, 2021. Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP

The 30-year-old has emerged as one of the world’s biggest Spanish-language stars since his third album “El Madrileno” — the Madrilenian — came out in February. That ranks him alongside his superstar ex-girlfriend Rosalia, the Grammy-winning Catalan singer with whom he has co-written several hits.

C. Tangana, whose real name is Anton Alvarez Alfaro, has come a long way since a decade ago when he became known as a voice of disillusioned Spanish youth in the wake of the financial crisis.These days his rap is infused with everything from reggaeton and rumba to deeply traditional styles from Spain and Latin America, with a voice often digitised by autotune.

“It’s incredible that just when my music is at its most popular is exactly when I’m doing something a bit more complex, more experimental and less
trendy,” he told AFP in an interview.

And he is unashamed to be appealing to a wider audience than previously: his dream is now to make music “that a young person can enjoy in a club or someone older can enjoy at home while cooking”.

‘People are tired’

The rapper, who sports a severe semi-shaved haircut and a pencil moustache, has worked with Spanish flamenco greats including Nino De Elche, Antonio Carmona, Kiko Veneno, La Hungara and the Gipsy Kings.

In April he brought some of them together for a performance on NPR’s popular “Tiny Desk Concert” series, which has already drawn nearly six million
views on YouTube.

Shifting away from trap, one of rap’s most popular sub-genres, and venturing into a more traditional repertoire was a dangerous move — especially for someone with a young fanbase to whom rumba, bossa nova and bolero sound old-fashioned.

“I think people are tired. They’ve had enough of the predominant aesthetic values that have previously defined pop and urban music,” he said.

Parts of his latest album were recorded in Latin America with Cuban guitarist Eliades Ochoa of Buena Vista Social Club, Uruguayan
singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler, Mexican folk artist Ed Maverick and Brazil’s Toquinho, one of the bossa nova greats.

“What struck me most everywhere I went was the sense of tradition and the way people experienced the most popular music, and I don’t mean pop,” he said.

A new direction

C. Tangana started out in 2006 rapping under the name Crema. When the global economic crisis swept Spain a few years later, hard-hitting trap was
the perfect way to voice the angst of his generation. But after more than a decade of rapping, things changed.

“When I was heading for my 30s, I hit this crisis, I was a bit fed up with what I was doing… and decided to give voice to all these influences that I
never dared express as a rapper,” he said.

The shift began in 2018 with “Un veneno” (“A poison”) which came out a year after his big hit “Mala mujer” (“Bad woman”).

And there was a return to the sounds of his childhood when he used to listen to Spanish folk songs at home, raised by a mother who worked in
education and a journalist father who liked to play the guitar. The Latin American influences came later.

“It started when I was a teenager with reggaeton and with bachata which were played in the first clubs I went to, which were mostly Latin,” he said.

Studying philosophy at the time, he wrote his first raps between stints working in call centres or fast-food restaurants.

As to what comes next, he doesn’t know. But one thing he hopes to do is collaborate with Natalia Lafourcade, a Mexican singer who dabbles in folk, rock and pop — another jack of all musical trades.

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