Born Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll on February 9, 1977, in Barranquilla, Colombia. Addresses: Record company--Sony Music Latin America, 605 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, FL 33139.
Although she is one of the biggest stars on the Latin music scene, Shakira, a native of Colombia, doesn't think of her sound as typically Latin and has always considered herself first and foremost a "pop-rock" artist. And it may not be too long before fans of pop and rock across the United States and other English-speaking markets around the world are singing her praises. Early in 2001, the Miami-based recording artist was putting the finishing touches on a new album that will contain English translations of some of her biggest hits, and she is widely seen as the next potential crossover star.
Born Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll on February 9, 1977, 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 listening to some of the songs she's 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 for 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. Unfortunately the modeling job never materialized, but perhaps it was for the best. Instead she signed her first recording contract with Sony Music Colombia and shortly thereafter released her first album. Entitled Magia, 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 entitled 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 she remained with the cast for about a year before returning to her first love--music.
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. However, it was not an immediate success, and at first sales were disappointingly slow. Several months after the album first went on sale, "Estoy Aqui," the first single to be released, started catching fire with disc jockeys at radio stations throughout Latin America and elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world. The single soon made its way to number one on the Latin charts, a feat that was later matched by a follow-up single entitled "Donde Estas Corazon?" Four other singles from the album--"Antologia," "Pienso en Ti," "Un Poco de Amor," and "Se Quiere, Se Mata"--all 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, despite its slow start, the big question for Shakira, her recording label, and the critics was whether she could produce another hit her next time out. Ably assisted by record producer Emilio Estefan, husband of Cuban-born singer Gloria Estefan, Shakira released Donde Estan 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 Donde Estan 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 clearly hear some of the Arab influences that are so dear to Shakira's heart, blended masterfully 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." She allowed that the resulting sounds might not please some of her earlier fans but said that "the most important thing is to be honest."
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 took all of the taped footage and distilled it down into an hour-long program that focused largely 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.
In September of 2000 at the first Latin Grammy Awards, 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.
Just to prove that into each life some rain must fall, Shakira got the answer to the question posed in the title of her 1998 album Donde Estan los Ladrones? (Where are the Thieves?) in November of 2000. The mansion in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in which Shakira had been staying for a couple of months, was robbed, although little of value was taken. The singer, her mother, and Antonio de la Rua, son of Argentine President Fernando de la Rua, stayed in the Punta del Este house while Shakira recorded a number of songs for her new album. Shaken by the break-in, Shakira's party left abruptly for Colombia.
Estefan, who continued to work with Shakira on her upcoming English-language album, told Entertainment Weeklylate 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 the 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."
by Don Amerman
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 the Colombian soap opera El Oasis, 1994; returned to recording music, 1995; released Pies Descalzos, 1996; released Los Donde Estan Ladrones?, 1998; released MTV Unplugged, 2000.
Latin Grammy Award, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Ojos Así" from MTV Unplugged, 2000; Latin Grammy Award, Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for "Octavo Día" from MTV Unplugged, 2000.
- Selected discography
- Magia , Sony, 1991.
- Peligro , Sony, 1994.
- Pies Descalzos (includes "Estoy Aqui," "Donde Estas Corazon?" and "Pienso en Ti"), Sony, 1996.
- Donde Estan los Ladrones? (includes "Ojos Así"), Sony, 1998.
- Shakira, MTV Unplugged , Sony, 2000.
August 2, 2005: Shakira's enhanced album, Tortura, recorded with Alejandro Sanz, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_1/index.jsp, August 9, 2005.
November 22, 2005: Shakira won the American Music Award for favorite Latin artist. Source: 2005 American Music Awards, http://abc.go.com/primetime/ama05/index.html, November 27, 2005.
December 5, 2005: Shakira was declared part of the Dream Duet, along with Usher, in the XM Nation Music Awards voting. Source: USA Today, www.usatoday.com/life/digest.htm, December 5, 2005.
February 8, 2006: Shakira won the Grammy Award for best Latin/rock alternative album, for Fijacion Oral Vol. 1. Source: Grammy.com, http://grammy.com/GRAMMY_Awards/Annual_Show/48_nominees.aspx, February 9, 2006.
April 27, 2006: Shakira won six Billboard Latin music awards, including female pop Latin album for Fijacion Oral Vol. 1 (Oral Fixation Vol. 1), hot Latin song of the year, hot Latin song of the year vocal duet, Latin pop airplay song of the year (duo or group), and Latin ringtone of the year, all for "La Tortura (The Torture)" with Alejandro Sanz. She also won the Spirit of Hope Award for her dedication to improving the lives of Colombian children. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bbcom/awards/index.jsp, April 30, 2006.
May 6, 2006: Shakira won ALMA Awards for Spanish album of the year for Fijacion Oral, Volume 1 and outstanding female musical performer. Source: NCLR ALMA Awards, www.almaawards.com/awards/index.html, June 29, 2006.
- Entertainment Weekly, September 29, 2000, p. 129.
- Hispanic,March 31, 1999, p. 75.
- Time, February 15, 1999, p. 80.
- Time International, August 3, 1998, p. 36.
- "Shakira," All Music Guide, http://allmusic.com (April 25, 2001).
- "Biography," Shakira: MTV Unplugged, http://www.shakira.com/main.html (May 8, 2001).
- "International Beat: Shakira, Celia Cruz, Ricky Martin," Sonicnet.com, http://www.sonicnet.com (May 8, 2001).
- "International Beat: Valerie Belinga, Shakira, Gloria Trevi," Sonicnet.com, http://www.sonicnet.com (May 8, 2001).
- "Latin Grammys' Fallout: Increased Sales, Lingering Controversy," Sonicnet.com, http://www.sonicnet.com (May 8, 2001).
- "Review: Shakira Returns to U.S.," Sonicnet.com, http://www.sonicnet.com (May 8, 2001).
- "Shakira: Biography," Sonicnet.com, http://www.sonicnet.com (May 7, 2001).