Juanes is a hero. Perhaps the noble Colombian singer has never been classified with the powerful term before, but he is certainly deserving of it. The 17-time Latin Grammy-winning and Grammy Award-winning musician inarguably possesses the heart of gold, the soul of an angel, the spirit of humility, and the musical framework of a soon-to-be legend.
“Every day is the start of something marvelous,” Juanes says.
On Thursday afternoon, something marvelous took place at EXPO Center, where Juanes rehearsed. But this was different than most rehearsals -- this one was about the kids, the youth in Los Angeles, and the ongoing heroic efforts by a man with an impeccable musical repertoire.
Juanes, who performs Friday and Saturday at the Hollywood Bowl as part of Gustavo Dudamel’s “Americas and Americans,” rehearsed alongside YOLA (Youth Orchestra LA), an LA Phil program that provides free instruments and music training to students from underserved neighborhoods. YOLA will also be performing at the Bowl.
“What the kids did here today is not easy,” says Juanes. “…To me, it’s an opportunity [that's] mutual. It’s a big inspiration to be with them; for them, to play at the Hollywood Bowl has to be a motivation.”
After this special rehearsal, Juanes answered questions from the students about everything from his inspirations for his songs to his musical heros.
“It was a precious moment,” he says.
Known for fusing rock, heavy metal, pop and Latin rhythms, including Colombian folk music, Juanes truly opened up to the kids during this experience. Born Juan Esteban Aristizábal in the municipality of Carolina del Príncipe, and raised miles south of his nation’s second-largest city, Medellín, the now 40-year-old artist relates to these young musicians, as he himself learned to play guitar as a kid.
After 10 years with the metal band Ekhymosis (1988-98), Juanes began a solo career. Literally with nothing, Juanes moved to Los Angeles, where he met acclaimed Argentine producer Gustavo Santaolalla. In 2000, his debut solo album, Fíjate Bien (Take A Good Look), was released. That was followed by Un Día Normal (A Normal Day). And the rest is history.
“[L.A.] is a city where everything started for me,” he says with a nostalgic sentiment. “In the beginning, it was very hard because I came to a place totally new to me. I didn’t know how to speak English and I didn’t have money. It was very hard for me but at the same time, it gave me the opportunity."
It's personal stories like these that audiences enjoy witnessing and experiencing. They want to be part of the stories behind the initial struggles, the setbacks becoming opportunities, the achievement of an American dream, and the current glories – like that of Juanes.
Triumphant as ever, Juanes remains true to his roots and traditions. He proudly shares his past, one that is filled with riches and monumental success, yet he maintains an altruistic character.
He probably won’t accept it. He possibly doesn’t think about it. But Juanes is indeed a hero of the people. Globally, his music instills peace, love and energy. Juanes is the better half of all of us; he just doesn’t know it.
Juanes is a hero.