Singer, songwriter
Achild prodigy and a star throughout the Spanish-speaking world, the Colombian vocalist Shakira made a successful crossover to English-language pop with her 2001 album Laundry Service. Shakira's camera-friendly looks and carefully controlled image concealed both a creative artist who wrote most of her own material and an astute businesswoman who became an international star without alienating her original Latin American fan base. After a hiatus of several years, usually the kiss of death for a career in the fast-moving world of pop, Shakira re-emerged bigger than ever with double releases in 2005, Fijación Oral, Vol. 1 and Oral Fixation, Vol. 2.
Born Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll on February 2, 1977 (some sources give February 9 as her birthday), in Barranquilla on Colombia's Caribbean coast, Shakira is the daughter of a Colombian mother and a Lebanese father. The Arabic background of her father, a writer and jeweler, greatly influenced young Shakira, as can be heard in some of the songs she has written. In Arabic, her first name means "woman full of grace," and it is how she has chosen to be known professionally. While still quite young, she showed a love for music and a talent her parents considered quite remarkable in a child so young. She entered a number of local and national talent and beauty contests, and by the time she was ten years old she had won several.
At the age of 13 Shakira left Barranquilla for Colombia's capital of Bogota to take a modeling job. The modeling job never materialized, but perhaps it was for the best. Instead she signed her first recording contract with Sony Music Colombia, and soon released her first album. TitledMagia, Shakira's debut was made up entirely of songs that she had written between the ages of 8 and 13. Although the album never achieved great success, it did bring the young songstress to the attention of her country and led eventually to her selection to represent Colombia at the annual Festival OTI, scheduled to be held that year in Spain. Her participation in the festival was barred at the last moment when officials realized that she was under the minimum age of 16.
At age 15 Shakira graduated from high school. Shortly thereafter she released her second album,Peligro, which failed to win much more attention than her debut effort. Soon after the disappointing release of Peligro, Shakira signed on as an actress in the Colombia television soap opera El Oasís, and remained with the cast for about a year before returning to her musical career.
Shakira's breakthrough came with the 1996 release of Pies Descalzos (Bare Feet), an album that has sold more than four million copies worldwide and one that produced no fewer than six smash singles. At first, sales were disappointingly slow. Several months after the album went on sale, "Estoy Aquí," the first single to be released, caught fire with disc jockeys at radio stations throughout the Spanish-speaking world, and the single soon made its way to number one on the Latin charts. This feat that was later matched by the follow-up single "Dónde Estás Corazon?." Four other singles from the album—"Antologia," "Pienso en Ti," "Un Poco de Amor," and "Se Quiere, Se Mata"—reached the top ten on the Latin charts. The album itself managed to hit number one in sales in eight different countries. So popular was Pies Descalzos in Brazil, where sales topped 900,000, that Shakira recorded remixes of several songs in Portuguese.
What made Shakira's success with Pies Descalzos all the more impressive was the singer's decision to abandon her light pop format and establish for herself a distinctive and somewhat daring new style—a distinctive blend of pop and rock unlike anything being done by Colombian singers at the time. To get the album done the way she wanted, she had to overrule her label's recommendation that she stick to a format with more commercial appeal.
In support of Pies Descalzos, Shakira toured widely throughout the Spanish-speaking world, including cities in the United States with large Hispanic populations. The album and tours helped to make her one of the most visible musical performers in Latin music. Her tours crisscrossed the globe and lasted nearly two years.
After the phenomenal success of Pies Descalzos, the big question for Shakira, her recording label, and the critics was whether she could produce a comparable hit her next time out. Ably assisted by record producer Emilio Estefan, husband of Cuban-born singer Gloria Estefan, Shakira released Dónde Están los Ladrones? (Where are the Thieves?) in 1998. Critics hailed the spirit and integrity of Shakira's music, showcased beautifully by the high production standards for which Estefan is known. Of her work on Ladrones, Shakira said: "My music is sincere, everyday music. It is music that stems from a completely genuine source."
Critics hailed Dónde Están los Ladrones? as a breakthrough album for Shakira. Its title track was a none-too-veiled reference to the corruption found at all levels in her native country. One of the first big singles from the album was "Ojos Así," which roughly translates as "Those Eyes." In it one can hear some of the Arab influences that are so dear to Shakira's heart, blended skillfully with the best of Western pop. Estefan was full of praise for Shakira. "It is totally refreshing for me to work with an artist who knows exactly what she wants, both at a musical and a personal level," he said. "Her music is Shakira. It's real music." Even Shakira seemed genuinely pleased with the album. Speaking to an interviewer for Time International, she said all the album's tracks have a "real, organic sound. The whole core is rock, even the dance songs."
During the summer of 1999 the MTV Network, which broadcasts in markets around the world, including much of Latin America, taped Shakira in one of its MTV Unplugged concerts. Performing in the Grand Ballroom of MTV's Manhattan Center Studios in New York City, the Colombian singer sang almost all of the songs for which she had become well known. MTV's editors then distilled the taped footage into an hour-long program that focused on the most important and influential songs of her repertoire. Beginning in 2000 the program was aired throughout Latin America as well as in the United States. An album of the songs performed on the hour-long show was also released in 2000.

For the Record …

Born Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll on February 9, 1977, in Barranquilla, Colombia.
Moved to Bogota, Colombia, at the age of 13 to model but ended up instead with a recording contract for Sony; released debut album, Magia, 1991; released Peligro, 1994; acted on Colombian soap opera El Oasis, 1994; returned to recording music, 1995; released Pies Descalzos, 1996; released Los Dónde Están Ladrones?, 1998; released MTV Unplugged, 2000; released English-language debut, Laundry Service, 2001; released Live & Off the Record, 2004; released Fijación Oral, Vol. 1, Oral Fixation, Vol. 2, and enhanced album Tortura recorded with Alejandro Sanchez, 2005.
Awards: Three Latin Grammy Awards, for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, for "Ojos Así" from MTV Unplugged, 2000; for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, for "Octavo Día" from MTV Unplugged, 2000; and for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album, for Fijación Oral, Vol. 1, 2005; American Music Award for favorite Latin artist, 2005; six Latin Music Awards for single "La Tortura" (The Torture), with Alejandro Sanz, 2006.
Addresses: Record company—Sony Music Latin America, 605 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, FL 33139.Website—Shakira Official Website:
At the first Latin Grammy Awards in September of 2000, Shakira won Grammys for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Ojos Así" and for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for "Octavo Día." She also performed at the awards show. Only a week earlier she had won an MTV Video Music Award for her video of "Ojos Así." News of the Grammy Awards gave a big lift to sales of Shakira's albums. In the weeks immediately following the awards ceremony, sales shot up by as much as 30 to 40 percent in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, one of the major Latin music markets in the United States.
Estefan told Entertainment Weekly in 2000 that he fully expected Shakira to be the next big Latin crossover star, creating a sensation on the same scale as Selena or Ricky Martin. He further predicted that "Middle Eastern combined with Latin music is the next big sound." Of her work on her new English-language album, Shakira said: "I'm working day and night writing, but I'm also taking my time. I want this album to put a big smile on my face."
And so it did, selling an estimated 13 million copies worldwide. Shakira won the admiration of even the dean of South American writers, Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez, who (according to the Economist) praised the "innocent sensuality" of her music. In the important U.S. market, Laundry Service rose to the number three spot on Billboard's album sales ranking, thanks to the hit singles "Whenever, Wherever" and "Underneath Your Clothes." Shakira studied English intensively and as usual wrote much of the music herself.
The expected industry strategy would have been to rush a second English album to completion quickly and release it to raise the artist's profile still further. Shakira had other ideas. Determined to keep control over her own music, she took a long break after finishing worldwide touring in support of Laundry Service. Her label Sony filled the gap with the album and DVD Live & Off the Record in 2004 while Shakira wrote new material. That material fell into groups of Spanish and English songs. Now based in Miami, Shakira was determined not to lose her connection to Spanish-speaking fans in Central and South America. So she took the unusual step of releasing two linked albums, one after the other. Fijación Oral, Vol. 1 and Oral Fixation, Vol. 2 both appeared in 2005, featuring the singer's catchy mix of Latin rock, pop, and world music sounds spiced by high-powered guest talent.
An early indication of the success of Shakira's success came when Fijación Oral, Vol. 1 became a hit in European markets with few Spanish speakers, such as Germany, Finland, and France. Critical reception for the English album was mixed. David Browne of Entertainment Weekly wrote that "for all the musical ingredients at her disposal, Shakira winds up with a relatively bland dish," while Stephen Thomas Erlewine of All Music Guide was impressed that "it's a deadly serious, ambitious pop/rock album, most assuredly not frivolous dance-pop." The album reached number five on Billboard's Top 200 album list (one step below Fijación Oral, Vol. 1), and the singles "La Tortura" and "Hips Don't Lie" kept Shakira on radio airwaves and music playlists across much of the world through 2006. By that time Shakira was, as an Economistwriter quipped, Colombia's greatest legal export.

Selected discography

Magia, Sony, 1991.
Peligro, Sony, 1994.
Pies Descalzos, Sony, 1996.
Dónde Están los Ladrones?, Sony, 1998.
Shakira, MTV Unplugged, Sony, 2000.
Laundry Service, Sony, 2001.
Live & Off the Record, Sony, 2004.
Fijación Oral, Vol. 1, Epic, 2005_
Oral Fixation, Vol. 2, Epic, 2005.



Economist (U.S.), July 23, 2005, p. 62US.
Entertainment Weekly, September 29, 2000, p. 129; December 2, 2005, p. 79.
Hispanic, March 31, 1999, p. 75.
Interview, August 2002, p. 113.
People, June 13, 2005, p. 43; December 19, 2005, p. 93.
Teen People, May 2006, p. 52.
Time, February 15, 1999, p. 80; March 15, 2004, p. 99.
Time International, August 3, 1998, p. 36.


"Biography," Shakira: MTV Unplugged, (May 8, 2001).
"International Beat: Shakira, Celia Cruz, Ricky Martin,", (May 8, 2001).
"International Beat: Valerie Belinga, Shakira, Gloria Trevi,", (May 8, 2001).
"Latin Grammys' Fallout: Increased Sales, Lingering Controversy,", (May 8, 2001).
"Review: Shakira Returns to U.S.,", (May 8, 2001).
"Shakira," All Music Guide, (July 15, 2006).
"Shakira: Biography,", (May 7, 2001).


Post a Comment