Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Humanitarian rockstar

Published: October 26, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

Colombian rock star and ex-member of the heavy metal band Ekhymosis, Juan Esteban Aristizbal Vsquez, known to the Spanish- and non-Spanish- speaking worlds alike as Juanes, has done it again.

On October 24, Juanes dropped his fourth full-length album La Vida… Es un Radico. Yet again, the man with the perfect hair has shown us his ability to put together a musically and lyrically solid album. He makes it look so easy.

Juanes' career began in 1998 when he disbanded the only marginally successful Ekhymosis. His first album, Fijate Bien, did fairly well, but only in Colombia.

His career took off in 2002 with the release of his second album, Un Da Normal, which featured the international hits “A Dios le Pido” and “Fotografa,” the latter of which was a duet sung with Portuguese-Canadian pop star Nelly Furtado. The album won Juanes five Latin Grammy Awards in 2003.

The ever-popular (and ever-controversial) “La Camisa Negra” appeared in 2004 on Mi Sangre which debuted at number one on the Billboard Top Latin Albums. The single caused a lot of grief when it was used in Italy as support for the neo-Fascism movement. In response to this, Juanes told the Washington Post, “'La Camisa Negra' has got nothing to do with fascism or Mussolini…People can interpret music in all kinds of ways I guess.”

Besides his outrageously successful music career (controversies and all), Juanes also has a humanitarian side. He started his own Mi Sangre Foundation to aid victims of anti-personnel mines. In 2006, he performed for the European Parliament to help increase awareness of the use of land mines around the world. In response to his performance, the Parliament donated 2.5 million to de-mine Colombia and to rehabilitate victims of the land mines.

In 2005, Time named Juanes one of the world's 100 most influential people and in 2006, French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedie declared him “Knight in the order of Arts and Letters,” France's highest cultural honor, for his activism.

Since many Hispanic artists have had incredible success when adding English songs to their repertoire, it was rumored that Juanes would do the same with this album.

This, thankfully, is not the case and when he was asked about this rumor, Juanes told, “singing in Spanish is very important because it's the language in which I think and feel. I respect people that sing in English, but for now I'll keep my Spanish.”

There is no doubt that Juanes' success will continue unabated with La Vida… Es un Radico. It is a a great example of his artistic ability. The album certainly runs the gamut from more traditionally Colombian sounding songs like “Bailala,” to the soulfully romantic sounds of “Tu y Yo,” and continuing to “Minas Piedras,” which is about victims of land mines as well as another allusion to Juanes' humanitarianism.

From dance hits to inspirational tunes, the album offers everything that a Juanes fan could desire. One listen and you will be as hooked on this amazing Colombian man whose heart is in the definition of the right place.