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Members include Jose Javier "JJ" Freire (born c. 1972, in Puerto Rico), percussion; Andre Lopes (born c. 1977, in Brazil), bass; Jose Villamizar (born c. 1971, in Colombia), lead vocals, guitar. Addresses: Agent--Michel Vega, William Morris Agency, 119 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, FL 33139. Website--Bacilos Official Website: http://www.bacilos.com.
The Miami-based Latin pop band Bacilos garnered a Latin Grammy nomination for its self-titled debut, released in 2000, and the band has only gained in popularity since then. The group's "Mi Primer Millon" became a hit song in 2002, earning a Latin Grammy in 2003 and propelling the album from which it came, Caraluna, to a Latin Grammy and a Grammy win later that year. Combining the sounds of English language pop and rock with a wide range of Latin styles, including salsa and tropical, Bacilos is at the forefront of a movement toward a fusion of styles from throughout the Americas. The members of Bacilos reflect the group's diverse influences. The trio met while students at the University of Miami and hail from all over Latin America; lead singer and guitarist Jorge Villamizar is from Colombia, bassist Andre Lopes is a native of Brazil, and percussionist Jose Javier "JJ" Freire comes from Puerto Rico.
Bacilos's hit "Mi Primer Millon," from the album Caraluna, was a statement of the group's aspirations; some of the Spanish lyrics of the song roughly translate into English as "I just want to have a hit on the radio, so I can have my first million." The song's direct approach sounded a chord among Latin music fans, earning Latin Grammys for Best Tropical Song and Best Pop Album by a Duo or Group. It also fulfilled the group's wish, becoming their first hit in the United States and propelling the album to a Grammy win for Best Latin Pop Album of 2002. Lead singer and guitarist Jorge Villamizar has maintained, however, that the group is still an alternative band, and that with its emphasis on acoustic instruments and commitment to playing honest, direct music, it represents a respite from the overly processed Latin pop of many of its contemporaries.
Bacilos is based in Miami, Florida, and its name means "bacterium." Caraluna was recorded in Freire's garage recording studio in the Little Havana section of Miami, and it won the group a total of three Latin Grammy nominations, as well as a performing slot on the Latin Grammy Awards show, broadcast live from Miami in September of 2003.
The trio came together in Miami in 1995, playing a hard, loud brand of rock that sounded very different from their later music. The three were students together at the University of Miami, where Villamizar and Lopes were majoring in business and Freire was studying film. The three of them discovered a shared passion for music, which gradually became their main focus. The group's initial goal was simply to pack in the crowds at Miami bars and frat parties, and to that end they adopted a brash, punk-rock sound. This was partly because the three of them grew up listening to popular English-language music such as Prince, Guns N' Roses, and the Rolling Stones. "When you're young in Brazil," Lopes explained to Jim Abbott in the Orlando Sentinel, "you want to be an American." Ironically, it was only after moving to Miami that Lopes became exposed to the wider world of Latin music.
Villamizar, like Lopes, had English-language pop music as his initial inspiration, especially the music of the Beatles. However, his mother, a guitar teacher, introduced him to the music of Latin America, teaching him to play a number of different Latin styles. Villamizar's mother was not content to play only the music of her native Colombia, but also listened to the music of Venezuela, Peru, and Brazil. It was this blend of Beatles-inspired pop and music from around South America that formed the foundation for Villamizar's future career in music. Besides music, Villamizar developed an early interest in painting, which he abandoned "when I was about 12, when I started to discover girls," as he explained to Abbott in the Orlando Sentinel.
Growing up in Puerto Rico, Freire found himself listening to opera music, his father's main musical interest. But like Villamizar and Lopes, he was also inspired by English-language rock and pop, including the music of Kiss and Peter Frampton. At a time when most of his peers were fans of salsa music, Freire was the odd one out, with his Led Zeppelin and other English language rock albums.
After starting out playing raucous bar sets, Bacilos advanced to more mellow venues such as restaurants and more subdued bars, where they no longer needed sheer wattage to be heard. They began playing more acoustic sets, and this suited their increasingly sophisticated audiences. Many who heard the group appreciated their subtle power and the fact that they respected their Latin roots.
By the 2000s, Bacilos's music had become a fusion of rock, cumbia, ska, reggae, bossa nova, and many other styles. The band also included violin, cello, and wind instruments in the mix. After landing a contract with WEA early in 2000, the group released a self-titled debut album later that year. The album was highly successful, earning a Latin Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. But the album did not produce a hit song on the radio, a shortcoming the group rectified with their next album, Caraluna.
Sergio George, who co-wrote "Mi Primer Millon" and also helped produce Caraluna, also helped the band to dig deeper into their Latin roots. A native of New York City, George had made a name for himself as a musician and composer for acts like Celia Cruz and Tito Puente, and had developed a formula for successful Latin Music based on "what people want to hear," as he explained to the Orlando Sentinel. But George also embraced the diverse influences of Bacilos's members as part of an energizing trend in Latin Music. "It's a great moment," noted George, describing the growing trend of fusing everything from salsa and tropical music to Motown and hard rock. Their Grammy wins have inspired the band to keep working to produce more albums and hopefully more hits together.
In addition to his work with Bacilos, Villamizar has become a sought-after songwriter for other Latin bands and musicians, including Alejandra Guzmán and Fernando Osorio. His work with other musicians earned him three Grammy nominations in 2003.
by Michael Belfiore
Group formed in Miami, FL, 1995; signed with WEA label, 2000; released debut album, Bacilos, 2000; released Caraluna, 2002; hit song from Caraluna, "Mi Primer Millon," won Latin Grammy, 2003; Caraluna won a Latin Grammy and a Grammy Award, 2003.
Latin Grammy Award, Best Tropical Song, for "Mi Primer Millon," 2003; Latin Grammy Award, Best Pop Album by a Duo or Group, for Caraluna, 2003; Grammy Award, Best Latin Pop Album, for Caraluna, 2003.
November 3, 2005: Bacilos won the Latin Grammy award for best pop album by a duo or group for Sinverguenza. Source: CNN.com, www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/Music/11/04/latin.grammys.list.ap/index.html, November 10, 2005.
- Chicago Tribune, September 3, 2003, p. 43.
- Houston Chronicle, September 2, 2003, p. 2.
- Knight Ridder Tribune News Service, October 8, 2003.
- Orlando Sentinel, September 3, 2003, p. E1.
- Wall Street Journal Europe, October 15, 2003, p. A6.
- Washington Post, October 14, 2003, p. C1.
- "Bacilos," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 26, 2004).
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