Famous Colombians: Shakira

So Manu is going to strongly dislike this post, but we’re only halfway through the week and I’m sure everyone would like to watch some music videos and hear about a famous Colombian who is not involved in politics or drugs (and probably learn some general things along the way). I mean I’m sure you’ve heard of Shakira, but I bet you didn’t know she was rejected from her school choir in elementary school because the teacher said she “sounded like a goat”? (bet that teacher is kicking themselves)

Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll was born in 1977 in Barranquilla, a northern costal city. This makes her a costeño, someone from the coast, which Bogotáns generally are not so fond of. (on principal, like rivaling schools I think.) This is also a good time to mention the Spanish naming customs: Membarak is her father’s first family name and Ripoll is her mother’s, and then one often adds the father’s second name and then the mother’s, so everyone has four “last names” from the combination of their parents, and the first two get passed on. (Legally one only uses the first two though)

As a child she started writing poetry, then songs, and shortly discovered a desire to perform and often did so at school, becoming known as “the belly dance girl”. At eight, her father declared bankruptcy and many of the family belongings had to be sold, but to show her what’s what her father took her to the park and pointed out the orphans to show it could be worse. (cool dude) This greatly affected her and she vowed to help people when she became famous.

Between ten and thirteen she performed around Barranquilla and gained some recognition, eventually meeting a producer who convinced Sony Colombia executive Ciro Vargas to give her an audition. Vargas liked her, and after some difficulties he set up an audition for her in Bogotá, where executives were so impressed she was shortly signed for three albums.

The first two, Magia and Peligro, were not particularly well received and Shakira disliked Peligro so much she refused to do promotion for it. The two have since been pulled and are not considered official albums. Of course you can still find everything on youtube, and here is the 1991 not-hit “Magia.” It’s very slow and ballad-y compared to her current creations.

After a brief hiatus (although she did star in a Colombia TV series) she started recording again in 1995, including three songs in Portugese. (She currently knows Spanish, English, Portuguese, and some Italian, French, and Arabic.) Pies Descalos came out number one in eight different countries, but only 180 in the US Billboard 200. She went on tour and this helped promote enough interest for a remix album. Hit’s from the original include “Estoy Aqui” and “Donde Estas Corazon.” A bit more upbeat than previous songs.

Next Shakira relseased Dónde Están Los Ladrones?, which she produced entirely herself. It did well in Latin America and earned her a Latin Grammy. Then she did her fist live album, MTV Unplugged in New York, and earned the Grammy Award for Best Latin Pop Album. Success was quickly approaching, and she went on another tour including the US and also won an MTV Music Video Award. (back when they still, y’know, played music videos.)

In 2001 Shakira worked on an English crossover album containing the massive single hit “Whenever, Wherever” (“Suerte” in Spanish) and the rest is history. Laundry Service dropped November of that year as number 3 on Billboard and was later certified as triple platinum by RIAA. However she received criticisms from the U.S. for trying to write in English, Rolling Stone referred to her as sounding “silly”, and from Latin America for abandoning her folk and rock roots in favor of American pop. (Manu: “gripe gripe sell out gripe.” I think that’s just what many artists do. Lady Gaga also originally did not write pop)

Obviously these words were no impediment to her, as she continued to power on. Her career has boomed and she even created the official song of the FIFA 2010 World Cup, “Waka Waka.” She released her 7th album Sale el Sol in October of 2010. A good thing from that is “Rabiosa.” (I like the short hair, and excessive amount of rolled r’s that I can’t say, but why the pole dancing? not necessary)

So yeah yeah now she’s rich, did she ever get back to that philanthropy thing? Indeed; she started a foundation with special schools all over Colombia for poor children, she’s played many benefit concerts, made many donations, worked with disaster relief, and is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. People En Español announced her as Humanitarian of the year in 2009.  She was chosen to speak at the University of Oxford, explaining some of her work by saying, “That is how I want the youth of 2060 to see us: That our mission for global peace consisted of sending 30,000 educators to Afghanistan, not 30,000 soldiers. That in 2010, world education became more important than world domination.”

So sort of your usual thoughtful pop star, but I think she’s done some good things, and she’s certainly good at what she does.

Whatever it all comes down to, all I know is that supposedly “Hips Don’t Lie” is the best-selling single of the last 10 years. Now that’s famous.


About syd

I like beats & beets
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One Response to Famous Colombians: Shakira

  1. Pingback: Almost Autodidactic, or, Spanish Music Monday! | Don't Give Papaya

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