With some hot rockin,' Shakira's ready to blaze a trail across this country
By Mauricio Minotta
November 7, 2002
The sound of applause isn't anything new to Shakira. She's been hearing it ever since she signed her first record deal at age 13. But there was something different in the thunderous cheers and clattering of hand claps she was receiving the other night.
As she has throughout the past year, the Colombian pop songstress was busy making headlines again as she swept the inaugural "Video Music Awards Latin America" â€“ winning in all five categories she was nominated in, including Artist of the Year and Best Pop Artist.
The accolades were especially meaningful this time around, though. She says there was no denying the strong bond she felt with the mostly Latino audience that had gathered for the event that night.
"It was really very emotional when I went up to accept the last award," says Shakira from her management office in Miami. "When I saw the audience on their feet, I really felt like their applause was full of love. It made me feel like I really have a strong relationship with my Latin fans."
Shakira, 25, hasn't been doing too shabby with her ever-growing Anglo audience, either. Since last year's release of her crossover album, "Laundry Service," Shakira has been getting plenty of applause by making guest appearances all over television.
It's been hard to miss the blond beauty in 2002.
Aside from appearing in Pepsi spots and being a regular staple on MTV's "Total Request Live," Shakira has been a featured performer on the cable channel's "Music Video Awards" (where she was nominated four times) and the Latin Grammys (also picking up an award there), and has shared the stage with the likes of Stevie Nicks, Celine Dion and Cher on "VH1 Divas Live."
"Laundry Service," which Shakira wrote and recorded almost entirely in English, has sold more than 3 million copies domestically and 10 million worldwide. Sales have been riding high on the strength of the single "Whenever, Wherever," but more impressive is that Shakira has done it without a single concert tour in the States â€“ until now.
For the first time in her 12-year career, Shakira will embark on a world tour that will take her to 50 cities in 30 countries starting tomorrow at the San Diego Sports Arena, where she performed one show in April of 2000.
At least half of the dates are in the States, where Shakira is hoping to establish her superstar status among Anglo concertgoers.
Dubbed the "Tour of the Mongoose" because, Shakira says, "it's an animal that looks like a rat, but you know what? The first time I ever heard about a mongoose, I was really impressed because it is an animal that can defeat the snake with just a bite.
"It's like a living miracle because if there's an animal on Earth that can defeat the snake with a bite, I think there's got to be some way for us to defeat, or to bite, the neck of hatred in this world, no?"
Whether her tour can achieve that remains to be seen, but Shakira says her fans will, at the very least, experience an entertaining rock show, regardless of which language she sings in.
"I think music is a great tool," she says. "It has the power to make people come together no matter what language I'm singing in. It's a show where there are no borders."
A heart in rock 'n' roll
Although Shakira's primarily categorized as a pop artist, this Colombian booty shaker is really a rockera at heart.
She grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, the Beatles and the Cure, and was first hooked on the power of the electric guitar after hearing the solo on Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence."
"I have a lot of devotion to those bands for accomplishing the dream of creating songs that transcend time," she says. "Those amazing guitar riffs that stay in people's minds for generations is what, I think, we try to accomplish as musicians."
Shakira is confident she's captured a new vibe by working on her bilingual repertoire for the "Mongoose" tour. With a well-rehearsed band in place and loosened reins on her electric guitarist, fans can expect to hear â€“ and see â€“ her rock influence come through, she says.
"This is the production of my dreams," Shakira says. "I have the same production crew that has worked with the Rolling Stones and U2, the lighting designers of Paul McCartney and Nine Inch Nails â€“ and a band that sounds amazing. They're really smokin'. I can't wait to take this show to my people in Latin America because they've never seen me do a show of this level."
Typical of Shakira, her countrymen are never far from her thoughts. Although she has lived in Miami for the last decade, she's never lost her connection to Colombia and often dedicates the awards to her homeland in her acceptance speeches. It's no coincidence that her name is Arabic for "full of gratitude."
"I feel like it's my responsibility to serve as an ambassador for Colombia," she says. "I don't take my accomplishments personally. I take them as being good news for my people, so they can celebrate with me."
Shake, rattle and roll
Shakira grew up as Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll in Barranquilla, a port city on Colombia's Caribbean coast, where she got her first taste of performing after her father, of Lebanese descent, took her to a local Middle Eastern restaurant.
The sound of the doumbek, a traditional Arabic drum, sparked a natural instinct to move her hips and shake her belly â€“ a move she uses to great effect in her live shows.
Belly dancing and singing at talent shows eventually led Shakira to form a singing and dancing troupe that performed locally. She got her real break in music, though, at 13, when she heard an executive for Sony Discos, the label's Latin division, was in town. She arranged to be at his hotel and surprised him with an impromptu performance in the lobby. A week later, she was signed to a three-record deal.
Her first two releases, "Magia" ("Magic") and "Peligro" ("Danger"), didn't fare well in Colombia, until Shakira recorded her first rock-influenced album, "Pies Descalzos" ("Bare Feet"). The 1996 release went on to sell 4 million copies and establish Shakira as a superstar in Latin America.
Here in the States, "Pies Descalzos" went platinum, but the awards started pouring in after Shakira picked up her first Grammy in the Best Latin Pop category for her 2000 release, "Shakira â€“ MTV Unplugged."
With no previous tour to push "Laundry Service," there's no doubt Shakira's regular TV appearances throughout 2002 have helped create the wave of U.S. success she's riding on. And, of course, having the right people around her helps, too.
Shakira collaborated with Gloria Estefan's husband and producer, Emilio Estefan, to produce "Laundry Service" and her 1998 effort, "Donde Estan Los Ladrones?" ("Where Are the Thieves?"), which went platinum in the United States. Her manager, Freddy DeMann, is also responsible for launching the careers of Madonna and Alanis Morissette.
Still, Shakira marvels at how her world has changed in the span of just one year. Regardless of who helped her get to where she is, Shakira says ultimately the magic really lies in what she records on tape.
"Music makes miracles. Like the miraculous story of the Colombian girl who grew up in Barranquilla, who tasted peanut butter for the first time just a couple of years ago and now has reached her dream," says Shakira, speaking about herself.
But after 12 years in the business, Shakira knows she didn't cultivate the love her Latino fans have so generously given her overnight. She's well aware that the U.S. concert stage is where she needs to be if she wants to feel the same level of adoration from a new audience outside of Latin America. And she's ready to win them over â€“ one concert and one hip shake at a time.
"I feel connected to my Anglo fans," she says. "Right now the relationship with them is like a friendship, but I think that will eventually grow deeper. That's only possible through the live shows."
Mauricio Minotta is a San Diego writer.
7:30 p.m.; tomorrow;
San Diego Sports Arena, 3500 Sports Arena Blvd., Midway; $38-$68;
"Laundry Service," which Shakira wrote and recorded almost entirely in English, has sold more than 3 million copies domestically and 10 million worldwide.
"I think music is a great tool. It has the power to make people come together no matter what language I'm singing in. It's a show where there are no borders." -- shakira
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