Meet Carlos Vives, the biggest pop star you've probably never heard of
Giant of Colombian entertainment to play London in March
Carlos Vives, one of the biggest names in Latin music, is to play a rare UK date at the O2 Academy Brixton in March. Vives's career is currently enjoying a second wind after the massive success of his 2013 album, the Grammy-nominated Corazón Profundo ('Deep Heart'), and its 2014 follow up Más Corazón Profundo (okay, 'más' is Spanish for 'more', you can work out the rest), which won the 2015 Grammy for Best Tropical Latin Album.
The world of Spanish-speaking pop music is enormous, because the world of Spanish-speaking people is itself enormous and fast-growing. According to a report by the Instituto Cervantes, by the year 2050, the United States will become the biggest Spanish-speaking country in the world. If you've not heard of Carlos Vives, it's because with an audience as big and as devoted as his, he doesn't need to make records in English in order to become a megastar.
Born in the picturesque Colombian city of Santa Maria in 1961, he and his family moved to Bogotá in the early 70s and he first came to attention as an actor in telenovelas (ABC's Ugly Betty was an American adaptation of the Colombian telenovela Yo Soy Betty, La Fea.) He started out in the 80s making albums of relatively conventional synth-ballads, but after starring as the lead in a series about composer Rafael Escalona – a legend of vallenato, a form of Colombian folk music blending Latin rhythms with the accordion – Vives steered his music towards vallenato itself, and since then he's maintained an exuberant fusion of funk, rock and pop with the traditional music of his country, 'Pa Mayte' being a fine example. He's big enough on his home turf that he can invite Shakira onstage for a guest appearance, as opposed to the other way round.
Vives is also an ambassador for Hispanic culture in general, offering guest spots on his albums and shows to musicians such as Marc Anthony and Michel Teló (whose 'Ai Se Eu Te Pego' was a massive global hit in 2011.) In recognition of his efforts as a promoter of Latin culture, Vives was given a Legend Award by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation at a ceremony in Washington DC in 2014.
After the breakup of his second marriage Vives took a nine-year career hiatus, but 2013's 'Volví a Nacer' ('I will rise again') was his comeback song, and here's the video in all its telenovela-esque glory.
Carlos Vives plays the O2 Academy Brixton on 31 Mar 2016. Tickets go on sale from Fri 29 Jan.