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Queralt Lahoz 4

Queralt Lahoz has her sights set on the sky

12 January 2023, 11:30

With touchstones that range from dancehall to flamenco and the strong familial values of dignity and hard work, Queralt Lahoz is bringing her arresting show to ESNS23 this month. Already nominated for the Music Moves Europe Awards, she’s gearing up for a year that will take her far from the borders of Catalonia.

Queralt Lahoz was born and raised in Santa Coloma de Gramenet, a small town on the outskirts of Barcelona that became a focal point for Andalusian immigration, her family moving there from Granada in the 1960s.

Growing up, music was a constant presence, from singing Coplas with the women in her family to embracing a range of acts from traditional latin singers like La Lupe and Chavela Vargas to contemporary hip-hop artists like Missy Elliot and Queen Latifah.

Despite a great love of music, Lahoz never envisaged herself as a singer. As a young girl, it was a world that seemed too far away. It wasn’t until the age of sixteen that she first found her voice. Singing with a modern flamenco band called Pokas Luzes, egged on by her cousin at a neighbourhood party, she found herself in at the deep end, playing two concerts on the same day. “Pokas Luzes was a short experience band full of crazy and funny moments, the best way to start on the musical journey,” she laughs.

As music became her focus, she began performing with her friend and guitarist Dani Felices in the duo De La Carmela. Together they performed traditional songs and covered classics wherever they could confirm a booking, from bars and restaurants to campsites and weddings. “I know how hard this business can be and what it is to be a musical worker thanks to this project and so many years of short and long travels by car on weekends with two or three gigs on the same day,” she says. “To sing these traditional songs for an audience that many times can sing them with you reminds me everytime that music is basically something made to share emotions, that it's one of the biggest treasures.”

Although Lahoz values her heritage, for her it’s one of many influences on a journey that’s led her to create the music she makes today. “Flamenco, it's a deep music and cultural expression. It's part of me, my life and who I am, maybe my biggest influence,” she says. “But when I see that someone defines my music as new flamenco, I don't feel one-hundred percent comfortable, because for me it's something quite serious and respectful.”

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For Lahoz, salsa, bolero, hip-hop and dancehall are all just as important influences not only in her current sound, but as avenues for future exploration. “Maybe someday I'll end up singing only Flamenco, but for now I prefer not to be considered as a ‘Cantaora’,” she says. “I try to have one leg on the traditional side of my personal influences and another leg on the modern side.”

Lahoz began focusing on her own project at twenty-six, releasing her debut single “María la Molinera” in 2018. Her debut EP 1917 followed a year later, written and self-produced alongside her bandmates Marc Soto, Pau García and Fede Jahzzman, working from a small studio in Barcelona.

Fresh off the back of growing acclaim, she released her debut album Pureza in 2021. A powerhouse of elastic vocals and dancing dynamics, the record’s shape-shifting production transcends genre from classical roots to modern US influence. Songs are subtly carried by Lahoz’s captivating voice and strident storytelling and tracks like “De la Cueva a los Olivos” explode into choruses rich in traditional touchstones. Followed swiftly by the bouncing hip-hop bassline and call and response of “Con Poco,” Lahoz flexes her musical versatility with ease across the album.

Working again alongside her bandmates, Lahoz also collaborated with Genis Trani and Arnau Figueres, two esteemed local producers. Mid-record, the track "El Tiroteo" features flamenco-fusion legend Jorge Pardo, in what she calls “a great honour.”

For Lahoz, one of the most important parts of her songwriting can be found in the lyrics and messages they carry. Practising the values she learnt from her grandmother and weaving those traditions through her music adds another dimension to the personality and power in her songs. “As a working class woman, dignity and everyday struggle have been always a constant teaching at my home, so many of my lyrics and my music are always touched, in a literal or poetical way, with these values that I learned since a young age from the women in my life,” she says. “I believe in the power of music in many ways, so to bring the memory and recognition of my beloved ones, their lives and ideas, it's something that I think it's beautiful to share.”

Working again alongside her bandmates, Lahoz also collaborated with Genis Trani and Arnau Figueres, two esteemed local producers. Mid-record, the track "El Tiroteo" features flamenco-fusion legend Jorge Pardo, in what she calls “a great honour.”

For Lahoz, one of the most important parts of her songwriting can be found in the lyrics and messages they carry. Practising the values she learnt from her grandmother and weaving those traditions through her music adds another dimension to the personality and power in her songs. “As a working class woman, dignity and everyday struggle have been always a constant teaching at my home, so many of my lyrics and my music are always touched, in a literal or poetical way, with these values that I learned since a young age from the women in my life,” she says. “I believe in the power of music in many ways, so to bring the memory and recognition of my beloved ones, their lives and ideas, it's something that I think it's beautiful to share.”

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Performing this month at ESNS23 in Groningen, Lahoz continues to share her stories further outside the borders of Catalonia. Picked to perform as part of the EU’s ESNS Exchange project, her showcase is a collaboration between Catalan Arts and Eurosonic giving young and emerging Catalonian artists a chance to break out of the region.

It gives Lahoz the opportunity to build on her experience from last year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. “A lot of people from the Latin-American community in Texas came after the shows to talk and share a moment with me,” she smiles. “I remember this American guy, he really enjoyed the show and when I went off the stage, came and told us that he had lived a few years in Seville during the 80’s. He was a huge fan of Triana, Smash and other great bands of Andalucía from those years. It was beautiful how he connected and understood our music, just with a thirty-minute showcase.”

Also nominated for the Music Moves Europe Awards, the EU’s Prize for emerging artists that represent the current and future sound of the union, the winner will be announced during a ceremony at Eurosonic. “It feels amazing, so many great and successful artists have been nominated for this and past editions, it's a great honour for me,” she says.

With shows already booked this year in Mexico, Portugal and France, Lahoz is excited to see where else her music will take her. “Being at Eurosonic, it's a great opportunity so I’m really looking forward to making great new connections that help me to bring my music to new audiences,” she says. “I always like to think that the only limit is the sky.”

Queralt Lahoz performs at ESNS on 19 January. Find out more at esns.nl.

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