Hotstar: Queralt Lahoz Bridges Genres, Cultures & Time Through Urbano-Infused Flamenco

ESTRELLA ON THE RISE: Queralt Lahoz’s boldness in melding soul, hip-hop, dancehall and flamenco earned her a Music Moves Europe Award, an honor given to emerging European artists. With the award, the Spanish singer joins a remarkable list of artists that includes Adele, Hozier, Swedish House Mafia, Dua Lipa, Mumford & Sons and KT Tunstall. (Photo by Aldara Zarraoa/Getty Images)

The Latin music boom of 2022 buoyed by megastar Bad Bunny hasn’t shown any signs of stopping anytime soon with Mexican music dominating charts in 2023 and many other subgenres rising to new heights when it comes to streaming numbers and ticket sales. Latin music continues to evolve by infusing sounds from other cultures but somehow manages to stay true to its roots and feel like it’s a song straight out of the barrio or pueblo, lending credence to psychologist Harold Proshansky’s concept of place identity, a theory that posits one’s self – their behaviors, feelings, values, goals and preferences – is connected to a specific environment.

Spanish singer-songwriter Queralt Lahoz is one of those artists who can’t shake off where she came from. Her music explores various genres, including hip-hop, dancehall, funk and soul, but always has a foundation of the sounds she grew up with.

“The music that always pulls me is that with roots, music from the pueblo and urbano,” Lahoz tells Pollstar. “I really connect with music sung in the barrios, the ghettos. I think carioca funk [from Brazil] is incredible. … I love music rooted in culture. I think it’s necessary for Latin music to have the large space and attention it has because there are millions of Spanish speakers in the world.”

Lahoz, 31, proudly hails from Santa Coloma de Gramenet, a small town just outside Barcelona, and music has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. She often used the art of song as a way to cope with the world around her and be transported into a safer place.

“Since I was a little girl, it’s true that it liberated me from bad moments,” Lahoz says. “Whenever I was sad or felt bad, as soon as I wrote and sang, my head was already elsewhere. I would forget the intrusive, negative thoughts and travel to a better world, somewhere that was better than wherever I was.”

That sensibility is evident in her compositions as Lahoz isn’t afraid to bare her soul in her songs, which sometimes interrogate her vindictive thoughts as well as her elation. Her music is a window into her past, present, thoughts, insecurities and heart, where her mother and grandmother forever reside as they were instrumental in her upbringing.

“I like to immerse myself into something very human and something that is inner spiritual,” Lahoz says. “The women in my family have inspired me very much when it comes to the stories I want to tell and to create music that makes women feel like they can do anything and everything even though they’re alone and independent.”

The only male presence in her household was that of her brothers, so it was the matriarchs of her family who instilled strength and independence in Lahoz. Their influence encouraged her to seek out the contributions of other women in the world, from famous photographer Isabel Steva Hernández, also known as Colita, to rapper Missy Elliott.

“Apart from the rappers I love, I also think about photographers like Colita, who immersed herself among the [Gitanos] and photographed them,” Lahoz says. “I also think about [Argentine folk singer] Mercedes Sosa and female writers such as Cristina Peri Rossi. I think about the people who have helped me understand myself as a human being and helped me become a better person because reading, listening and investigating their art has helped me find my voice.”

Over a decade ago, Lahoz and her guitarist friend Daniel Felices began playing boleros, songs from Cuba that are predominantly about love, at local bars, clubs and family events.

“I would really connect with the audience, and they would be crying,” Lahoz says. “That’s when I reconnected with music and realized that I wasn’t born for anything else that didn’t involve singing.”

After years of small, intimate shows, Lahoz felt she was ready to share her music with the world and made her way into the recording studio. In 2018, she released her first single, “María la Molinera,” which melds her flamenco influences and appreciation for boleros. A year later, she went even further into her exploration of music with the song “Como Puñalá,” in which Lahoz infuses urbano beats and rap into her Spanish sound.

Not long after dropping her second single, Lahoz released her first EP, 1917, after a nerve-wracking journey during which she learned a great deal, especially how quickly money goes when working inside a studio.

“I felt a little bit lost because I wanted to sing about so many things and do so many sounds, and it was just difficult to do that with five tracks,” Lahoz says. “But ultimately, I let myself go in the moment and enjoyed it. I learned that I enjoyed creating music in the studio more than recording my vocals. I didn’t start enjoying that until later.

“I felt that the music was most important, and I would stay in the studio in the final hours. I had no money, and I was self-managing myself. In the end, I understood the most important thing is your intention with the recording process and not so much about having everything.”

Just as she was gaining momentum came the COVID-19 outbreak. With lockdowns and uncertainty about the pandemic at the time, Lahoz was unable to properly visit the people she cared about.

“It really affected me not being able to see my family and not being able to perform,” she says. “In Spain, we love to hug and kiss people. It hurt not being able to feel the warmth of my loved ones and having to be socially distanced from them just to talk.”

But, as she had done in other dark times, Lahoz channeled her sadness into strength and creativity, and recorded her first LP, Pureza, in 2021. The album showed her versatility as an artist with some songs highlighting her melodic, soothing voice and others underlining her flow and rhythm. And she continued to show her range in her EP Alto Cielo, which dropped in May.

“When you experience grief, you aren’t conscious of what you have lost until time has passed,” Lahoz says. “Alto Cielo is where I found peace with the time lost during COVID. I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do, and I wanted to tell a story with much history. The pandemic helped me realize where I want to speak from and how to process my thoughts so I can connect with my sensibilities.”

While it was a difficult way to learn such a lesson, it also earned Lahoz the biggest musical honor she’s received. She received the Music Moves Europe Award, a European Union prize that highlights emerging artists and the diversity of the continent’s music, earlier this year, joining a list of previous winners that includes Rosalía, Adele, Stromae and Dua Lipa.

“I wasn’t expecting it because my team told me, ‘Hey, we were told that you weren’t going to win.’ I just thought, ‘What a shame,’ because I worked so hard and put in so much effort, and I thought it was my moment to be able to receive an award that I felt I deserved. When I work and don’t rest, I need that recognition!” Lahoz said with a chuckle.

The award comes with a monetary prize as well as opportunities to perform at European festivals, and Lahoz has since gone all over the world, including playing New York’s SummerStage in Central Park in July, but she isn’t resting on her laurels. Even with the honor of performing at fests such as Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary, Lahoz isn’t satisfied yet and looks forward to connecting with even more audiences in 2024.

“In terms of recognizing your achievements and making yourself feel accomplished, I’m not there yet,” she says. “I’m currently on a launching pad. I think there are a few more jumps I need to make the big leap where I can say, ‘Now I’ve made it.’ I’m very demanding of myself, and that has made me want more and feel like it’s not enough. But I’m on my way and in an appropriate place. I just need a few more steps.”

Management, Say It Loud BCN
Pablo Tuleda
[email protected]