Juanes: The Sound and Soul of Colombia

Posted in MusicWorld on August 27, 2001 by

en Español

Juan Esteban Aristizabal, better known as Juanes, has emerged as one of the most promising Colombian artists of his era. For those who haven't heard his music, it's merely a matter of immersing yourself in the sonic waterfall of his solo debut, Fijate Bien ("Look Carefully"), to understand what the critics and public have been heralding. His original blend of Rock en Español has led to global acceptance of an artist who truly remains a Colombian, both in songwriting style and musical influences.

Ever since he marched into the music business as lead singer and guitarist for the Latin rock group Ekhymosis, Juanes has been defined as a songwriter and artist who is true to his origins: The violent reality of life in Colombia has a marked influence on Juanes's songwriting, as do the tropical rhythms of the country which gave the world the sounds of Cumbia and Vallenato.

"Look Carefully" is one of the songs from his new album that walks between Vallenato and funk, with lyrics that remind us that walking on the streets of Colombia is an invitation to death; it's a song that manifests the reality of people who have been witness to 37 years of war. It's almost ironic that "Look Carefully" earned him several of his seven Latin Grammy nominations, which include Album of the Year, Best New Artist and Best Rock Solo Album; "Look Carefully" (the title song) earned nominations in the Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Rock Song categories. Juanes's video for "Fijate Bien" was nominated for Best Music Video.

Juanes's music and lyrics are examples of the contradictions that the Third World lives with: The music is festive but the lyrics are melancholy; and while Juanes insists on singing "love the land were you where born, love it its the one and only one" in a festive manner, the song can't help but sound blue.

His work can't help but represent the dichotomy of festivity and melancholy, hope and love for the land where one deals with the metaphor that life is a war - and vice versa. This bittersweet cocktail makes it difficult to understand what Juanes's songs are really about. His lyrics are like tears - tears of joy or of sadness, tears that give proof to the fact that we are alive.


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