plus Kush Arora (Surya Dub)
Bad Gyal—real name Alba Farelo—seems to spend a lot of her time in interviewsinsisting that the music she makes is not actually trap, but dancehall. A lot of the hype around her also seems to focus on the fact she is a woman, and the supposedly revolutionary nature of her music in terms of gender roles within these traditionally male-dominated genres. Perhaps because she is yet to gain much publicity outside of Spain, less has been made of her whiteness within a predominantly black and brown scene. But do either of these things really matter if the music is good and makes you want to dance?
Bad Gyal grew up in Vilassa del Mar, a village on the Balearic Sea coast just north of Barcelona, somewhere she describes as «quiet and without any music scene.» Tonight, we are both perched on stools in a dimly-lit corner of the bar following her debut UK performance, which she thinks went well. She started making music and sharing it about a year ago, but says that it's «something that's been with me since I was a kid.» She cites her musical inspirations both growing up and now as «the Jamaican scene: Vybz Kartel, Gaza Slim, Portmore Empire, and obviously all the ladies,» excitedly listing off names. «I like old reggaetón and old dancehall.» As for her own music, she describes it as inspired by these genres but «also mixed with my vibe and what I feel. I have my influences but I don't know what it is. I cannot use a word to describe my music.»
Blending trap beats and autotune with the dembow rhythms of reggaetón and dancehall, Bad Gyal is the first to sing this music in her native tongue of Catalan. Spain is presently enjoying a boom in reggaetón listeners and they have taken to their homegrown princess enthusiastically. It's unclear whether cultural appropriation is a concept that has come to Bad Gyal's attention. She doesn't seem particularly comfortable discussing her role as a Spanish woman in a scene that has not traditionally been the preserve of white people, and despite speaking out about her sex-positive and feminist views in past interviews, she now declines to answer questions about what the message of her music is, or how she describes her feminism. Which is… fair enough. A little research hints this may be due to backlash she has received over labelling herself a feminist while wearing revealing clothing and twerking (which, in and of itself, demonstrates a lack of understanding those critics had about how feminism works—she could wear what she likes and believe in equality for all genders).