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Go Behind the Scenes

Artists: Juanes

Essay | Video Transcript

Juanes' Colombian Rock
by Juan Camilo Agudelo

I first heard about Juanes in 2001 when his debut solo album was making a small splash in the US Latin music scene. The title track of that album, Fijate Bien (Be Careful), signaled immediately that he wasn't your typical Rock or Pop star. It was a reference to the threat that land mines from Colombia's armed struggle posed to rural communities. You also sensed he was trying to do something new, not just Latin Pop or Latin Alternative, but rather a Rock/Pop blend infused with Colombian Folk expression, both lyrics and rhythms.

All that crystallized in his first huge hit single, "A Dios Le Pido" (I Pray To God), the first song in our concert video clip on this site. While the catchy two-chord vamp was reminiscent of other Colombian guitar folk music, it was the honest and hopeful lyrics ("Que mi pueblo no derrame tanta sangre y se levante mi gente" - trans: May my country not shed so much blood and may my people rise up) that helped him stand out from the sappy romantic or bombastic dance music that dominates the Latin charts.

Juanes' success blending Rock and Folk didn't stop there. The sensational hit single "La Camisa Negra" (The Black Shirt), from his 2004 album Mi Sangre (My Blood), brought Guasca music, a simple and little-known rural rhythm from his native Antioquia to the world. Characterized by downbeat accents, simple chord progressions, and suggestive or even vulgar lyrics, Juanes remained true to those roots, and cited Guasca musician Octavio Mesa as an inspiration. "La Camisa Negra" is the third song in this video clip.

On his most recent album, La Vida... Es Un Ratico, Juanes sticks to his guns, borrowing from various Colombian rhythms. "Tres" features an accordion harkening Vallenato music; "Minas Piedras" is not your typical Bolero - again raising awareness about land mines, Juanes' chosen humanitarian cause; and "Bailala"(Dance It), the second song in the clip, is straight up Mapale, a subgenre of Cumbia, whose 6/8 time signature and polyrhythmic percussiveness pinpoints its roots in the music brought over by West African slaves.

Juanes' music and his pride in Colombian culture are an inspiration to me as a Colombian living in the United States. It was a privilege and a treat to meet him, listen to his story in his own words, and enjoy a concert that, for just a little over two hours, made me and the audience in Washington, D.C. feel like we were in Colombia, at home.

May my eyes awaken to the light of your eyes, I pray to God.
May my mother never die; May my father not forget me, I pray to God.
May you stay by my side and never leave, I pray to God.
May my soul never rest when it comes to loving you, I pray to God.

For the days and nights that are yet to come, I pray to God.
For my children, and my children's children, I pray to God.
May my country not shed so much blood and may my people rise up, I pray to God.
May my soul never rest when it comes to loving you, I pray to God.

One more second of life to give you, and give you my whole heart
One more second of life to give you, and to forever be by your side.
One more second of life, I pray to God.

That if I die, may I die of love
That if I fall in love, may it be with you
And may my heart speak with your voice
I pray to God every day.

Forgive us father for our sins, and heal the earth.
What we all need is peace and not war.
Light the cauldron so the fire can burn
All of the lies, and melt our sorrows.
Light the cauldron under the full moon,
And dance with me this dance of love.
Dance it, to cure all your pains!
Dance it, to drive away the bitterness!
Dance it, to add flavor to life!
It cures you! It cures you!

I am wearing the black shirt, I no longer care about your love.
What tasted like glory yesterday, today tastes like...
Wednesday afternoon and you are not home,
Not even a sign of where you are,
And I am wearing the black shirt, and your bags are at the door.
So it seems that I am left alone.
And it was all a lie all along.
What damned bad luck the day I met you.

I drank the poison of your love,
And was left to die, full of pain.
I inhaled the bitter fumes of you love,
And since you left I have only worn...
The black shirt, because my soul is black.
Because of you I lost my calm, and almost lost my bed
C'mon c'mon c'mon baby, I tell you in private
That I am wearing the black shirt, underneath I am dead.

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