Guest Author - Karin Norgard
Born Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez in the Colombian city of Medellin in 1972, Juanes is a Colombian rock musician and one of Latin music’s most prominent stars. To date, he has sold more than ten million albums worldwide and has won twelve Latin Grammys.
Juanes started to play the guitar at age 7. At age 13, he got his first electric guitar and became enamored with rock, especially with the band Metallica. Two years later, he and his friends would form a heavy metal band called Ekhymosis (Bruise). After seeing local success during the 1980s and 1990s, the band split up to pursue solo careers. Juan moved to L.A. and began using his nickname Juanes – a contraction of Juan and Esteban, his first and middle names.
Juanes saw immediate success in 2000 with his first solo album Fíjate Bien, for which he was nominated for seven Latin Grammys and won three, including Best New Artist. Juanes’ second album, Un Día Normal went platinum in 2002 in many Spanish-speaking countries. The hit single A Dios Le Pido won him a Latin Grammy for Best Rock Song and topped the singles chart in twelve countries.
Continued success – and controversy – would accompany his third album in 2004, Mi Sangre, or, more specifically, the single La Camisa Negra (The Black Shirt). Because of its title, the song came to be associated with the Fascist Black Shirts of Benito Mussolini’s neo-fascist movement in Italy. Supporters of the movement would raise their right hand as a sign of solidarity whenever they heard the song played. Despite Juanes’ insistence that there was no political meaning to the song, the Italian media called for a boycott of La Camisa Negra. The song was also banned in the Dominican Republic for its sexual undertones.
In 2005, Juanes started a nonprofit organization called Fundación Mi Sangre to aid victims of anti-personnel mines in Colombia. His work through this organization earned him a place on Time’s 2005 list of the 100 most influential people in the world. In addition to gaining recognition for his humanitarian work, Juanes has also been applauded by the Latin music community for his decision to record only in Spanish in order to promote Spanish language and culture. In interviews with the press, Juanes has expressed his desire to show the positive side of his native country Colombia, which often receives bad press related to drugs and violence.
Juanes’ latest album is the 2007 release La Vida . . . Es Un Ratico (Life . . . Is a Moment). It includes the hit single, Gotas de Agua Dulce (Drops of Sweet Water). He is touring the United States, Europe and Latin America during 2008 to promote his album. He has also used his tours to express his desire for peace between his native Colombia and neighboring Ecuador and Venezuela.