Saturday, January 28

Carlos Vives: “They told me that in Spain it was not going to go beyond the Canary Islands, but it happened”


Carlos Vives. Santa Marta, Colombia, 1961. He is one of the greats of Latin music, with 16 Grammy Awards on the shelf at home. Just published Cumbiana IIhis 17th album, and talks to EL MUNDO from Miami.

The cast of ‘Cumbiana II’ is the Dream Team: Ricky Martin, Fito Pez, Black Eyed Peas, Camilo…
The most pomegranate! I put my Colombian identity, but what I am always looking for is how to unite the world more. And that is why guests from other countries arrive. I have been a fan of rock in Spanish, I never had rock in English, what I listened to was Charly García, the entire Argentine rock movement, Mecano, Radio Futura, La Union… That was my youth and now being able to sing with one of my idols, as happens to me in ‘Babel’ with Fito Pez, is incredible.
Latin music reigns worldwide today, but those of you who have been around for many years know what it has cost.
Definitely. It has been underestimated, but it has opened a gap because it has pure joy. The music that is known today as urban music is not a new rhythm that was born inside a computer. Behind that computer there are ancestral things of the Latin culture and of our mixture, the one that makes us be everything that we are. If you look for the origin of urban music, before arriving in Puerto Rico, you have to go to Panama, which is where cooking begins. It wasn’t called reggaeton, it was a movement influenced by hip-hop and what was done in the United States, but that’s where it all started. The wonderful thing is that each country has found a way to join this movement from its own identity. The success of reggaeton is being a wonderful event for all of Latin America.
Have you felt many prejudices of Anglo-Saxon music towards you?
Yes, that has happened and it is normal in the daily coexistence of our culture in a country like the United States. Things have to be overcome and prejudices broken, but it still remains. We understand the mixture better because it is the essence of Latin America. Our roots merge with Spain and with the African mother, with the Andean, with the Caribbean and with the Pacific. It’s a wonderful connection, a permanent exchange back and forth. And that hasn’t always been understood in the United States, but to me that’s not the worst of it. The problem is that Latinos are a culture that, historically, are not proud of anything that is ours.
Do we think we are worse than we are?
Sure, think about what is always being repeated. The Spanish? “They were crazy, they came on the boats and devastated us.” The Indians? “Bad too, they were brutal and what sad music.” The black ones? “Imagine, the worst.” But what happens to us? Do we not realize the wonders that miscegenation has created? And that’s where our music comes in, it blows your mind. Really, I can’t believe everything we are, everything we have, everything that unites us. All the current modernity of Latin music is closely connected to our origin: we are the new Andalusia. They ask me why we Latin Americans are so happy and I always answer that, that we are the new Andalusia, the new Canary Islands. We must begin to value all that we have because it generates an incredible creative wealth.
How many times have you been asked about drug trafficking because you are Colombian?
Thousands. The problem is that it is logical even if it is unfair. In a country with so many historical differences, with so many needs and with so much neglect, this drug madness easily remains because, where the State has historically been unable to reach, it is fertile ground for everything illegal. So, of course, the name of Colombia has been linked to that. It has been hard, but the name of Colombia resists it a lot because, despite this, sometimes one says “Colombia” and it awakens a smile. And that’s because many Colombians made us great with music, with literature, with art, sports… And they built a name for Colombia capable of resisting the stigma of drugs, but it’s a constant struggle. I have had to compete my whole career against that bad image, drug trafficking was an obligatory topic if Carlos Vives arrived, and I have responded by always trying to explain the greatness of our culture.
You haven’t gotten into any controversy in your 40-year career. How is it possible?
Because I chose a simple and quiet path (laughs). In addition, from a very young age they saw me on television, because I started doing programs for children for four years and many generations have grown up with me. So they care for me and respect me.
From children’s TV you went to soap operas, what remains of the gal that you were?
I was always a slightly different guy because I only did costumbrista stories. I played one of the first Colombian cyclists, the life of a composer of calves, a boxer from Cartagena… But it is true that he was young and had a good face (laughs). I want to believe that something remains.
Man, to have turned 60 what remains is a great hair.
No, not anymore, you have a lot of faith in me. I have to put some grafts there because… I want to leave it long again and it doesn’t grow anymore. Before, from one week to the next, I already had long hair and now, look, it’s short that it hides. But I’m fine. I’m still jumping around a lot, I’m still running, I’m still doing my exercise. The only thing, I haven’t played football for a long time because I don’t go down so fast anymore (laughs). But, come on, with faith, with passion and taking advantage of the love of the people I plan to continue singing until the body holds.
You come on tour to Spain this summer.
Yes, yes, that pod is crazy. At first they told me that in Spain, since I made tropical music, I wasn’t going to go beyond the Canary Islands, but it happened, it happened (laughs). This time I am going to Cdiz for the first time, which drives me crazy, because it is the musical and cultural origin of many of the things that interest me. Also, Nia [Pastori] and Alexander [Sanz] They always tell me how come I haven’t been, so I wanted to fix it. Whenever I go to Spain it is a very powerful connection.

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