Juanes is a singer-songwriter, guitarist, and activist who is an international superstar and one of the biggest Latin American artists on the planet. Born as Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez in the Carolina del Príncipe, Antioquia, Colombia on August 9th, 1972, his stage name is derived from the contraction of Juan Esteban. Juanes’ music fuses traditional Colombian and Latin rhythms with rock and pop. It is energetic, bright, hopeful, and uplifting dealing with themes of love, family, country, and peace.
His father and brother taught him how to play guitar at seven years old. Growing up he enjoyed playing traditional Colombian music like cumbia, vallenatto, and guasca as well as boleros and tangos. As a teenager, Juanes was drawn to heavy metal, influenced by Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and other heavy bands. This naturally transitioned into his own metal band in 1988 called Ekhymosis.
With Ekhymosis, Juanes reached national success releasing five albums over the span of ten years. Their music started as heavy metal and transitioned into a more accessible Latin sound. For the most part, the appeal of Ekhymosis was limited to Colombia, so in 1998, they disbanded and Juanes moved to Los Angeles to pursue a solo career.
In 2000, Juanes released his first solo album entitled Fijate Bien. Once again, the album sold well in Colombia hit number in the charts and spent over two months on it, but the album was slow to gain traction elsewhere. However, everything changed in 2001 when Juanes received seven Latin Grammy nominations out of nowhere. Juanes performed at the event and came away winning 3 Grammys for Best New Artist, Rock Album, and Song.
His Grammy success launched him into the international spotlight. Record sales soared. He once again hit the studio with famed producer Gustavo Santaolalla and put together the next album, Un Día Normal. The album spent a record breaking 92 weeks on the top 10 of Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart. It sold millions and millions of copies.
In 2004, Juanes released his third album, Mi Sangre. He toured this album aggressively, playing for millions of fans over 200 shows in more than 30 countries on 4 continents. In 2007, he released La vida es… un Ratico shortly followed by a live album version. His much anticipated next album, P.A.R.C.E., will be released in December 2010.
Juanes is also renowned for his global activism and charity work. He is sometimes compared to Bono or Bruce Springsteen for his belief that social change is possible through music. He created his own organization, Fundación Mi Sangre, dedicated to eradicating anti-personnel mines and helping landmine victims in Colombia and throughout the world. It also focuses on early childhood development throughout Latin America. Juanes has also been named by Time magazine as one of the “100 more influential people in the world”.
As of today, Juanes has sold over 12 million albums worldwide. He has won a Grammy Award and more Latin Grammys than any other artist with a staggering seventeen wins. This is a remarkable accomplishment considering this is coming just from his first four albums.
Most of the Latin artists that I’ve reviewed on this site have had countless number of records, so I try to give you recommendations for where to start off. With Juanes, it really doesn’t matter. His most popular songs are La Camisa Negra, A Dios Le Pido, Yerbatero, Para Tu Amor, Volverte A Ver, Nada Valgo Sin Tu Amor, and Me Enamora. Be sure to check Juanes out. His music is very accessible. Let me now what you think.