The music that makes L'Hospitalet de Llobregat beat

In all his concerts and videos, Morad does not miss the opportunity to make the “L” sign, index and thumb drawing the letter to remember his origin in the La Florida neighborhood of l'Hospitalet de Llobregat.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
30 March 2024 Saturday 10:24
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The music that makes L'Hospitalet de Llobregat beat

In all his concerts and videos, Morad does not miss the opportunity to make the “L” sign, index and thumb drawing the letter to remember his origin in the La Florida neighborhood of l'Hospitalet de Llobregat. The rapper is currently the most visible image of the city's musical scene, a municipality with its own sonic thread that dates back to the years of the transition, and which he now intends to galvanize within the Districte Cultural project while the rumor spreads - every more solid - that Rosalía is looking for a space to set up her studio. Concert halls, schools, recording studios and rehearsal venues draw an under-the-radar substrate that has been feeding the city of Barcelona with music and musicians for years, from El Pumarejo to Les Cases de la Música, from DJ Amable to Sofía Gabanna, from the bands that starred in the indie explosion at the turn of the millennium to the urban musicians that dominate the new generations, and in the background the Sónar, the great electronic music festival held at the Fira de l'Hospitalet venue, and which It links the city with global circuits. A musical substrate that extends along the banks of the Llobregat, from which artists such as Estopa, Alizzz, Aitana, Love of Lesbian, Joan Dausà, Chanel, Nil Moliner and Rosalía herself have emerged.

“We are pioneers, paleolithic people from the district, city people,” says David Lafuente, sitting on a sofa inside the offices of the Salamandra room, a musical reference point with more than 2,000 performances in its three decades of history. Throughout this time it has played a role in promoting and promoting most of the city's musical projects, including some directly linked to the venue such as the creation of Les Cases de la Música or the Let's Festival, which this year has celebrated its 20th edition. “We opened the room in 1996, and we already saw that we were in a strategic location, an industrial area but close to the residential neighborhoods with a subway station next door,” Lafuente remembers of his beginnings on Avenida del Carrilet. “Soon synergies were created, rehearsal rooms and instrument stores opened around us.”

One of these spaces is located in the corner of the Salamander. This is Fabregada 38, 8 floors of industrial warehouse that house more than 250 rehearsal rooms and which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary. Artists of all types and genres come together in these facilities to play rock, hip hop or DJ sessions in spaces that also house recording studios, spaces for YouTubers and radio stations. “Morad was always here before he became famous,” recalls Alberto Serrano, head of the space, who also cites Pandora's Box. “My father told me that Estopa had also rehearsed here.” Among the virtues of the space, Serrano highlights that it operates 24 hours a day in an area that, on a musical level, “is quite busy both in terms of rock and punk and urban music.”

There are other rehearsal rooms such as La Universal or the Mood Factory recording studios, which are complemented by the rehearsal rooms that have been operating in Bellvitge for years, located on the ground floor of the apartment blocks, spaces designed as warehouses for shops and neighborhood bars that have been used as rehearsal rooms for years. This is the case of La Ludwig Band, the Catalan folk group born in Espolla but rooted in this area, where there are more than 50 venues of the same type that share a neighborhood with evangelical churches and their liturgies full of music.

In the Bellvitge neighborhood are the origins of the La Séptima recording studio, which in its short history has become a reference point for urban music, hosting artists such as Lia Kali, Sofia Gabanna, Hard GZ or Morad himself. Located in an old hair salon in the Can Serra neighborhood, La Séptima was born by four partners who were looking for greater freedom to develop their musical and artistic projects. “There was a lot of demand here, it is cheaper and we have many friends in the area, it was all very natural,” explains Marcelus Airlinez, one of those responsible for the studio, who highlights the presence of numerous artists from both Spain and abroad, who represent half of the clientele of the space, where urban music recordings predominate. “People who are 50 years old come here who have been in music all their lives, and also kids from the high school across the street who are recording their first project.”

Together they make up a fabric that is considered outside the institutions, with which they fail to harmonize. “In Catalonia, politics and culture are very mixed, there is a lot of interference with political interests.” The result is that many Catalan urban musicians, those who do not adapt to the canon applauded by local politics, have more resonance in the rest of Spain. “When we approach institutions we notice that we are trying to unite two worlds that turn their backs on each other.” In this sense, Marcelus highlights the problems of working with a culture that feels stigmatized and that experiences its own conflicts, “there is a lot of tension with everything that has happened with Morad and the MDLR [Mécs de la rue, kids of the streets] , the clash does not occur between the Spanish and the Maghreb community, but between the Maghreb and the Latin community.”

Music can play a conciliatory role between Caribbean groups, reggaeton and dembow on the one hand, and the Franco-Arabic sound of musicians like Morad. “Here we have this whole mix of reggaton music with Arabic, French, second-generation immigrants; “The studio is a brutal union point.” With the tendency of the new generations to add the greatest number of collaborations to each project, it may be the case that the engineer is Spanish, the guitarist is Brazilian and the artist has Arab ancestry, "in the studio there are many people, at In the end, a producer meets a musician, a designer meets a photographer, and clothing lines, video clips or photography sessions are made.”

La Salamandra and Fabregada 38 have in common their location in the Cultural District of l'Hospitalet, an old industrial area crossed by Cobalt Street that rises between the neighborhoods of the center and Santa Eulalia to the north and Bellvitge to the south, and which The town's town hall has been galvanizing as a cultural hub for more than a decade, attracting more than 500 artists who have settled in the last decade. “The transformation of the 22@ district of Barcelona forced many artists from different disciplines to leave the spaces where they worked,” says Mireia Mascarell, culture technician at the council, about the origin of the project.

These cultural migrants found spaces in l'Hospitalet similar to those they had in Poblenou with lower rents. This facilitated a movement born through word of mouth that the City Council has promoted through the creation of an office to facilitate the procedures and ensure that they settle in the 25 hectares of the cultural district by transforming the use plan, which allows allocating to housing 25% of the space of each workshop. “A third of the artists who have settled belong to the live arts, performing arts and especially music,” explains Mascarell, highlighting the municipality's interest in having these new tenants involved in the day-to-day life of the city.

The connection with the fabric of the city is one of the objectives of the Cultural District, shared by the Cases de la Música, a project born in 2005 with the impetus of the Salamandra hall to promote the practice and consumption of modern live music beyond the ecosystem of the city of Barcelona. “Outside the city there is not as much music market, it is more vocational and you need other lines of business to support live programming,” explains David Lafuente. Together with the Klap hall in Mataró and La Mirona in Salt, the Cases de la Música, in collaboration with the Associació de Sales de Concerts de Catalunya, try to overcome the difficulties that live music venues encounter, especially in terms of legislation. “Both at the municipal level and at the Generalitat level, we probably have one of the toughest regulations in Europe,” Lafuente laments.

Currently, the Cases de la Música carry out a mapping of the concert halls in Catalonia to understand their needs. “We want to show that we not only do one-off concert activity, but that we are a necessary space for the city,” highlights Eduard Bacardí, project coordinator. In l'Hospitalet they collaborate with the Municipal Music School in several integration projects within primary and secondary schools such as Rocking, where they put the instruments in the hands of the students from the first day, in an initiative where they want to involve the festival Dream. In addition, they manage the Casa de la Música Technical School, where photography and Management courses, among others, are carried out. “We want to find and create talent, and introduce it to the industry or the circuit.”

The opening of Salamandra came to fill a gap in a city with 300,000 inhabitants that did not have spaces for live music. “Before there were small music bars like La Catedral, which is now Kfé Olé, where jazz and blues concerts were held.” There were also pioneering spaces in the DJ world such as Depósito Legal, founded in 1985, Compliche, A Sako or KO, “it was a quarry of DJs, here they learned to DJ and then they went to Barcelona,” Lafuente highlights. These venues coexisted with music bars such as the Silverado in Bellvitge, the Chaplin, or l'Oncle Jack, one of the oldest spaces with its own musical programming, although this year it will probably close its shutters. “There have been times when we had a dozen rooms that programmed music.”

These premises complemented the pioneering proposal of the culture classrooms, the cultural centers born during the transition to bring culture closer to the population. L'Hospitalet was the first Catalan city to open one of these centers for culture, precisely in the La Florida neighborhood from which Morad emerged decades later. “Each neighborhood had its own, there were really transgressive neighborhood cultural spaces, there were concerts, movies, exhibitions.” We are talking about the late 70s, when concern about neighborhood nuisance did not exist and all town councils wanted to have their library or auditorium, "but they did not think about having a concert hall, that is what private promoters take care of," he points out. Lafuente, who also remembers that these projects “are not always in line with the administration.”

Currently, the city has, in addition to the Salamandra, venues such as La Zowi, the River room or the Pumajero, an example of migration from the center to the periphery. Born in 2015 in the Vallcarca neighborhood, the El Pumarejo collective has been installed on Avenida del Carrilet for years as an open door to the most innovative and free projects in the performing arts, video art and music. Adriano Galante, Za! or Tarta Relena are some of the regular artists in the room. Pau Balaguer is integrated into the collective, in addition to being part of the group Habla de mí en tense.

The band rehearses both in the room and in the apartment of Max, the group's singer, in an industrial area of ​​Bellvitge. That is where they have recorded their new album, and where they are preparing, among others, for the concert on May 18 at the Apolo room. “There is a lot of musical life in l’Hospitalet,” he says, and remembers that winning the Hospisona band competition in 2021 represented an important boost. Balaguer highlights the city's underground scene, with spaces like La Infinita, in the Cultural District, but avoids giving names of the meeting points, many of them private spaces and located in industrial warehouses. All this movement is carried out outside the administrations, “they don't make it easy to obtain aid and subsidies,” he laments about the collaboration with the City Council.

“I fell in love with the El Pumarejo project, it reminded me of the community spaces in Berlin, something that is being done beyond money with the aim of promoting culture.” Along the same lines are the house parties that are held in the city, and which serve as a breeding ground from which bands such as Habla de mí en presente or Fotos de la novia emerge, another of the groups that have used l' Hospitalet as a base of operations like Sidonie, Love of Lesbian or Dorian did years ago, rehearsing in the city before making the leap to Barcelona. “It's easy here because there are many industrial zones, huge spaces where you don't bother anyone.”

“Sometimes we are a lion's tail, and sometimes we are a mouse's head,” says David Lafuente about the relationship with Barcelona, ​​complicated by the residents' resistance to approaching the city. The same does not happen with the rest of the Llobregat cities such as Sant Boi, Viladecans, El Prat, Cornellà or Esplugues, regular visitors to the city and La Salamandra, which in recent years has become a benchmark on the hard rock circuit and heavy metal. The tables have changed a little thanks to the celebration of the Let's festival, which manages to attract Barcelona residents with a line-up that this year featured artists such as Jimena Amarillo, La Paloma and Iván Ferreiro, but there is still a long way to go to get the second city ​​of Catalonia obtains the musical recognition that its many protagonists pursue with the same pride that Morad displays every time he shows “La L” to remember his origins.