Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Famous Colombians

Metro recently described Shakira as "Colombia's only celebrity". Leaving aside Juan Pablo Montoya (as one must), this struck me as a little unfair on this violent nation's other musical superstar Juanes. Perhaps he hasn't achieved quite the same international name-recognition as his diminuitive compatriota, but he has "swept the Latin Grammys" in his time, and the catchy Camisa Negra has been doing the rounds on the UK music channels of late.

Sadly, I read yesterday that Soraya (pictured), another successful singer-songwriter from Colombia, had written a farewell note to her fans, and this morning she finally succumbed to the breast cancer that also took the lives of her mother, grandmother and aunt.

Why are internationally-successful recording artists Colombia's second biggest export? My own theory is that it sits nicely athwart the main musical divide in the region - that between the African-influenced beats of the tropics and the would-be rockers of the southern cone.

Shakira in particular has a well-reported knack for blending (and jumping between) Latin musical genres and styles, and frequently also calls upon her own Middle-Eastern musical heritage. Only Brazil and Mexico appear to have the same motive and opportunity, but the output from both is often a bit too 'local' for global tastes.

Anti-landmine campaigner Juanes is about to receive another Russian-made AK-47 converted into a guitar. This escopetarra used to belong to the ultra-right-wing militia the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) which is disarming in accordance with an agreement signed with the government.

Colombia has also announced that it will be relaxing its prohibition on abortion. A court has decided to permit terminations in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother or foetus is in danger. Only Chile and El Salvador (and outside the region, Malta!) continue to maintain a draconian total ban.

Here in London, there has been an unremarkable line-up of artists for the La Linea festival this year. The low-light promised to be Victoria Abril, but her concert was cancelled (hopefully due to lack of interest!). Sounding utterly dreadful in both English and in Portuguese, the former Almodovar muse has been trying to establish a successful recording careeer by projecting the same sonrisa boba (stupid smile) into her renditions of the bossa nova classics that made such a mint for Bebel Gilberto a couple of years ago.

1 comment:

scott said...

And don't forget Carlos Vives.

or Botero, or Gabriel Garcia Marquez...but I guess you're talking about another kind of star!