While I take in the Super Bowl Halftime Show, I can’t help but feel a wave of nostalgia as memories of my childhood in Colombia flood my mind, all thanks to the performer on stage. She played a significant role in shaping my formative years.
When I told my Colombian friend that I wanted to write about Shakira, he responded with a shiver due to the cold weather in New York City. He admitted that he hadn’t listened to her music since she had moved away from rock music. However, that’s exactly what I intended to write about – the side of Shakira that many Americans are unfamiliar with. Nowadays, Shakira is known for her blonde hair, curvy figure, and powerful voice, which all come together in a petite five-foot-two frame. She is a pop artist who has been given nicknames such as “queen” and “titan.” She is often seen wearing skin-tight clothing that highlights her physique. Her hit song “Hips Don’t Lie” from 2006 brought her fame, and she later created the official anthem for the 2010 South Africa World Cup. She has collaborated with numerous big names in the music industry, including Beyoncé and Rihanna, and is set to perform alongside Jennifer Lopez at America’s most-watched television event. However, if you delve into the lesser-known corners of YouTube and listen to her ’90s albums, you will discover an entirely different side to the artist. Instead of a blonde pop icon bedecked in glittery bodysuits, you’ll find a disheveled poet with hands covered in mud, producing ’90s alt-rock music that is a far cry from the reggaeton collaborations and pop hits that made her famous. This was the Shakira of my Colombian childhood, when I was just five years old and Bogota had just entered the new millennium. Her hair changed as frequently as her music, sometimes black and frizzy, other times adorned with red and burgundy braids interwoven with baby blue and ruddy fuchsia threads. She wore leather pants tucked into clunky black boots that echoed against the floor as she strummed her guitar and played the harmonica. Her soft-spoken Barranquilla accent contrasted with the heavy eyeliner around her eyes. She was a rocker, but beneath her rough exterior lay a soulful intelligence that held her country, and possibly all of Latin America, in the palm of her hand. What made Shakira so extraordinary was that her music brought hope and unity to a nation that was falling apart. In the 1990s, Colombia was in the midst of political turmoil. Even as Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel was slowly collapsing, communist guerrillas continued to uproot families in the countryside, grow cocaine, and kidnap the wealthy, all under the guise of Robin Hood-like activities to return money to the masses. The violence resulted in mass migration of families to cities like Miami.
During the 90s, Shakira’s presence in Colombian culture was a constant source of inspiration and pride, despite the dangers of guerrilla-infested roads. From school bus rides to fancy fusion cuisine restaurants, her music was enjoyed by multiple generations and became a part of everyday moments that held significance amidst external events. Shakira’s rejection from the school choir even served as motivation for many, making her a symbol of perseverance. She fueled Colombia’s pride and was even nominated for Person of the Year by the national newspaper. Unlike politicians or entrepreneurs, Shakira gave hope and instilled pride in our heritage and roots.
During the 90s, Shakira made a name for herself as a role model for Generation X, thanks to her clever lyrics that showcased both her refined intellect and her musical talent. Her songs were a unique blend of classical architecture, Renaissance art and Roman emperors, all while touching on themes of love and social commentary. Her music wasn’t just popular – it also served as a source of wisdom for many young people who found comfort in her lyrics. One example of this is in her song “Si te vas,” where she sang about the importance of seeing things clearly and how new people always seem to do well. Shakira’s ability to turn life’s metaphors into art began at an early age – at just eight years old, she wrote her first song, “Tus Gafas Oscuras,” in 1991. Her melodies had a way of reaching people and helping them forget their troubles while connecting with them emotionally. Her music was a sanctuary, and her words reflected the thoughts and feelings of her generation.
The music of Shakira holds a special place in my heart, as it brings back a plethora of memories. I can still recall the times when I used to ride in my father’s old BMW, listening to her songs with my family. Even during the traumatic experience of my grandmother’s kidnapping, Shakira’s music was a constant source of comfort for me. Her music has accompanied me throughout my life, evoking a sense of nostalgia that is hard to shake off.
Shakira’s contribution to Colombian music cannot be overstated, as she has become an iconic figure that represents the country on an international level. Her success has paved the way for future artists like J Balvin and Maluma, who have taken inspiration from her work. However, as her fame grew globally, her music began to cater to a wider audience, deviating from the style that initially won over Colombian fans.
Despite this change in style, Shakira remains a significant figure in the music industry and Colombian culture. Her impact on the industry is undeniable, and she will always be remembered as one of the most influential Latin American artists of all time.
YouTube comments are filled with fans expressing their nostalgia for the old Shakira, a sentiment that requires a Spanish translator to fully grasp. However, it is natural for artists to evolve over time, as demonstrated by Taylor Swift’s transition from country to pop. Shakira’s newer songs draw from various genres like tango, reggaeton, and trap, yet her ability to evoke emotions remains unparalleled. Although her earlier songs hold a special place in the hearts of many, including my own family who sing them on road trips, her collaborations in reggaeton, vallenato, and bachata are equally significant in representing Colombian culture. Shakira’s music reflects the rich history, knowledge, and pride of Colombia. Despite Gabriel Garcia Marquez once questioning Shakira’s connection to her roots, I can’t help but miss the old Shakira with her red braids and harmonica, which defined my childhood memories of home. Shakira’s past and Colombia’s roots are intertwined, and her performance at the 54th Super Bowl will showcase her growth as an artist while also representing her homeland.