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Carlos Vives - Vallenato's Ambassador

Biography and music profile of the Vallenato artist from Colombia


Photo Courtesy Scott Gries / Getty Images

Carlos Vives

Photo Courtesy Scott Gries / Getty Images

Carlos Vives is the most famous Vallenato singer in the entire world. Thanks to his music innovation, this Colombian artist was able to transform a local and traditional rhythm into a mainstream phenomenon that captured audiences beyond the Colombian borders. His version of the single "La Gota Fria," is considered one of the best vallenatos in history.

Although Carlos Vives has been criticized for playing around the original Vallenato sound with influences from other genres such as Rock and Pop, Carlos Vives has become an ambassador of Colombian music around the world. The following biography describes the music profile of one of the best Colombian artists.

Early Years

Carlos Alberto Vives Restrepo was born on August 7, 1961 in the city of Santa Marta. Just like everyone who grew up in the Atlantic Coast of Colombia, Carlos Vives was also exposed to Vallenato songs during his childhood. However, when he was 12 years old his parents divorced and he moved to Bogota to live with his mother.

From an early age, Carlos Vives showed his passion for music and acting. In addition to this, his good looks helped him to find different gigs on TV when he was only a teenager. Hi breakthrough opportunity arrived with the soap opera Gallito Ramirez where he played a boxer who fell in love with a rich girl. That show not only increased Carlos Vives's popularity in the country but also allowed him to meet Margarita Rosa de Francisco, his first wife.

A False Start

While he was getting popular through soap operas, his music career did not experience the same success. Although Carlos Vives grew up in the land of Vallenato, he had a natural feeling with romantic music and Rock. In fact, his first albums were full of ballads defined by a very Pop and romantic style. His first albums were, indeed, a disaster.

After receiving an acting job in Puerto Rico, he decided to move to that country in 1989. It was there that Carlos Vives, who had already divorce his first wife, met Herlinda Gomez, his second wife. Carlos Vives spent a couple of years in Puerto Rico before moving back to Colombia in 1991. Once in Colombia, he received another job offer in a TV series that changed his life forever.

The title of this series was Escalona and it was based on the life of the Vallenato songwriter Rafael Escalona. While working on Escalona, Carlos Vives had the opportunity to sing the most famous songs from the legendary songwriter. Escalona became a hit in the country and its soundtrack was put together in two albums that enjoyed enormous popularity. After this experience, Carlos Vives came out with the idea to sing vallenatos.

'Clasicos de la Provincia' and "La Gota Fria"

In 1993, Vallenato music changed forever. That year, Carlos Vives produced his hit album Clasicos de la Provincia. This production was a compilation of famous Vallenato songs, which Carlos Vives played in a different way. By incorporating new elements into Vallenato, Carlos Vives revolutionized the sounds of this genre bringing into the market a cross-over version of the original style.

For instance, he incorporated a drum set that departed from the traditional drums Vallenato groups used to play with. He also added a bass and even electric guitars. In addition to this, Carlos Vives also brought some traditional instruments such as gaita. The combination of these new elements with musical influences from Rock, Pop and Funk added a new flavor to Vallenato music.

Although, Clasicos de la Provincia is an excellent album from beginning to end, its first single, "La Gota Fria," deserves a special mention. This song is probably the single that better captures all the innovation Carlos Vives brought to Vallenato. Because of this, "La Gota Fria" took Colombia by storm and people went crazy about it. "La Gota Fria" was not only a popular hit but a track that created a connection with the Colombian soul. In other words, it generated the same sort of connection that the famous Cumbia song "La Pollera Colora'" had produced decades before in the country.

A Vallenato Ambassador

After Clasicos de la Provincia and "La Gota Fria," Carlos Vives has forged an amazing career becoming the absolute ambassador of Vallenato music around the world. Other hit albums include titles like El Amor De Mi Tierra, Dejame Entrar, La Tierra Del Olvido and, more recently, Rock De Mi Pueblo.

Not too many artists are able to move traditional rhythms from the local scene into a worldwide stage. Carlos Vives just did that with Vallenato and because of this, he changed Vallenato music forever. Whether you like it or not, the music of Carlos Vives marks an important point in the development of this vibrant Colombian genre.

Carlos Vives - Best Songs

If you are looking for the best songs by Carlos Vives, I would recommend you to get your hands on the breakthrough album Clasicos de la Provincia. All the songs on this production are just great. This is not only a great Vallenato album but also a CD I would introduce to anyone with an interest in Latin music. The following are some of the hit songs Carlos Vives has recorded throughout his career.

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