An Introduction to Flamenco Music

Here's a primer to the five best flamenco artists of all time

Flamenco is the music that beats at the heart of Spanish culture, and if you're a world music fan, you should definitely take some time to discover its rapid, guitar-based rhythms. Here, we've compiled our top five flamenco artists: once you've heard all of these albums, you'll have a good idea of what flamenco is all about and will be well on your way to having a great flamenco collection!

If you're interested in sampling flamenco music (rather than just flamenco dancing), you can't go wrong with these selections. If you're traveling in Spain and want to experience a flamenco concert up close and personal, you can find our flamenco guide to Barcelona here, and our guide to Madrid here. You can also easily find flamenco shows, workshops and concert packages in Madrid here. We also attended a very lively flamenco show in Barcelona, which you can see photos from.

  • 01 of 05

    Camaron de la Isla

    Camaron de la Isla graffiti
    ••• Camaron de la Isla, immortalised in graffiti. Image: mediapinta/Creative Commons (Some Rights Reserved)

    Camaron de la Isla widely recognized as the most important flamenco artist of all time. By the time of his death in 1992, he had released more than a dozen classic flamenco albums. To give you an idea of his influence in Spain, his 1979 release La Leyenda del Tiempo was as influential as Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and as controversial as when Bob Dylan "went electric".

    Antologia is a great introduction to the great man's work, as is his classic live album recorded in Paris.

    Intrigued? Make sure you check out our list Essential Camaron de la Isla Flamenco Albums.

  • 02 of 05

    Ojos de Brujo

    Photo of OJOS DE BRUJO
    ••• Redferns / Getty Images

    Up until their break-up in 2011, Ojos de Brujo were the leading lights in contemporary flamenco. Mixing flamenco rhythms with hip-hop beats, their music is highly accessible and great for parties. When they first came onto the scene, the received a little flak from flamenco purists for deviating from the genre's base, but their popularity quickly overcame the skeptics.

    They released four studio albums: Vengue, Barí, Techarí and Aocana. The first two albums, in particular, are very similar and either one would satisfy, though I think Barí has the slight edge.

  • 03 of 05

    Radio Tarifa

    Photo of RADIO TARIFA
    ••• Redferns / Getty Images

    Tarifa is located at the southernmost point of Spain, just 14km from Morocco. Tarifa doesn't have a radio station, but if it did, it would probably sound very much like Radio Tarifa. Fusing flamenco music with Arabic and Middle Eastern elements, Radio Tarifa simultaneously sound both traditional and totally fresh. The band has released three studio albums (Rumba Argelina, Temporal and Cruzando El Río) and one live album (Fiebre).​​​

  • 04 of 05

    Carmen Linares

    Veranos de la villa 2014: Carmen Linares
    ••• Redferns via Getty Images / Getty Images

    Carmen Linares has one of the most exceptional voices in flamenco. Raw and emotional, most of her music is flamenco at its most traditional.

    Carmen released her first recording in 1970, and hasn't slowed down since. Still putting out albums and touring, she was even awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Música ​prize for interpretation in 2001. 

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Niña Pastori

    The 17th Annual Latin Grammy Awards - Premiere Ceremony
    ••• WireImage / Getty Images

    Niña Pastori is an exceptionally talented flamenco artist, born in the same town as Camarón de la Isla (San Fernando, Cádiz). She released her first album at just seventeen years of age. A veritable pop star in Spain, her brand of slicked back flamenco-lite may stray from more traditional flamenco (although her legions of fans could care less—she won her fourth Latin Grammy in 2016). If you're looking for contemporary pop with a world music twist, you'll be pleasantly surprised by Niña's smooth-listening flamenco.