Carlos Vives, the man who rescued one of the best artistic expressions of Colombia, was destined for the world of art, especially music. And through it, and perhaps unknowingly, would become a pure and honest representation of Colombian culture representing his country with honor and humility.
In mid-1977, when Spaniard scientist and founder of the Colegio Hispanoamericano Azures Conde” Mateo Matamala died in Bogotá-Colombia, the school’s band sang a touching farewell song. The music had a melancholic tone, but had a faint breath from the Caribbean that could defeat unwrinkled bitterness or sorrow. It was written by a 16 year old boy who had come from Santa Marta, whom was known to have that kind of joy and happiness that only comes from those who grew up in the coast.
That was not only the first song Carlos Alberto Vives Restrepo composed but it would win first place in the Colombian music festival of Iragua College. The musical festival would not only prove to be his “golden ticket” when schoolteachers began to hire him to compose all types of serenades but would identify him as a boy who had music flow through him as easily as blood flows through veins.
However, it was another student of the same school who gave him the itch for another artistic virus: the theater. “It was a teacher, theater producer, director, writer, music critic, leading actor, clarinet player and Frisbee player Santiago Moure,” recalls Carlos Vives himself. He and another student, Lucho Hurtado, inclined Carlos to love the ingenious art of playing characters and living the life of others on stage.
So, Vives began directing his course towards art. Once he graduated from high school and obtained his diploma in 1981, he entered the National School of Drama under the direction of Santiago Garcia and Beatriz Camargo doing small roles in the Teatro La Candelaria. Thereafter, RTI chose him for its television-training program where he trained under the guidance of actor and teacher Boris Roth. But it would be Caracol Television who opened the doors for a long and successful career as a television actor. In 1982, a little over 20 years of old, although at the time he seemed 15 – he began his acting career in the popular children’s television program “Little Giants”. For three long years he had a successful run on television and showed that although young, he had acquired the expertise to move on to bigger and better things. In 1984 he graduated from the University of Jorge Tadeo Lozano with a degree in television production
His talent would take him to the next phase, which turned out to be a new acting role in the soap opera “Pharaoh’ alongside popular leading actors Jorge Salazar and Emilio Gomez Carmenza. A peculiar bicycle linked to Carlos’ character would become the instrument to mark history in a time when the craze for cycling and their idols began to write an unforgettable chapter in Colombia. For his successful portrayal in “Pharaoh”, director Julio Cesar Luna gave him the opportunity to star alongside another promising actress, Amparo Grisales, in the soap opera “Your Heart Is Mine”. From here, music would pave the way and help him make history on Colombian television.
Thanks to writer David Sanchez Juliao, Carlos Vives would move on to his first leading role. A funny love story of a boxer from Cartagena, Carlos Vives played the leading role of Gallito Ramirez alongside leading actress Margarita Rosa de Francisco. The success of the soap opera and his character made him one of the hottest Latin exports in television in both the US and Puerto Rico.
From this moment on he directed his passion and talent to music. He recorded two ballad albums under Sony Music, and in 1987 was nominated for a Premio Lo Nuestro for “Breakthrough Artist”. At the same time, he alternated his work in both worlds. In 1991 he returned to Caracol TV to star in a musical about the life and work of the famous vallenato composer Rafael Escalona, a role that would lead him to earn later that year the Simon Bolivar award for “Best Actor”.
The success of the “Escalona” series and its soundtrack would take him for the first time to Latin America stages. But what really took Latin America’s musical scene by storm was a new concept created by Vives, which was influenced by the folkloric and traditional sounds of his country. His album “Clásicos de La Provincia,” (Province Classics), a series of traditional songs that told stories of his land through a fusion of lyrics and traditional sounds, would prove to be a musical revolution of styles and arrangements making Vives an instant international success.
Carlos wowed crowds in America and Europe with the infectious beat of “Clásicos de La Provincia”. He broke his own sales record (triple gold and triple platinum in 1993 and 1995) previously held by the Escalona soundtrack, and managed to reach the top of sales charts, making his mark in a musical arena dominated by local popular artists Emiliano Zuleta, Juancho Polo Valencia, Luis Enrique Martinez, and Carlos Huertas, among many others.
Meanwhile, he starred alongside Venezuelan actress Rudy Rodriguez in a story of the origins of the Republican era in which he played one of the first Creole patriots in the soap opera “The Double Woman.”
In 1994 he undertook yet another project, and created a factory of ideas, characters, criticism, music, interviews, news, satire and humor that would impact Colombian television once again. This time he would direct one of the first night shows in Colombian television, a show titled “La Tele”.
Vives’ momentum did not allow him to settle into the comfort of his success, but rather push him to next level, which translated into the process of writing a new body of work. Achieving a perfect mix of coastal charm, strength, vallenato and pop freshness, this process produced the award winning “La Tierra del Olvido” which would become triple platinum in 1996, and was labeled by critics as the most important album in the Colombian music industry in the last 50 years.
Then came “Tengo Fe”, a multi-gold record in 1997. Moving forward, then came “Amor de Mi Tierra”, GOLD + PLATINUM record in 1999 in the USA. In 2000, the album reached double platinum in Colombia and triple platinum in Spain (September 2000). In this album the song “Fruta Fresca” remained at #1 on Billboard Magazine – USA (1999/2000).
Vives’ arrival to the Grammy Awards came in 2000 for the 42nd gala. Nominations included “Best Traditional Tropical Latin Artist” (“El Amor de mi Tierra”, Feb. 23, 2000), “Record of the Year” (“Fruta Fresca”), “Album of the Year” (“El Amor de mi Tierra”), “Song of the Year” (“Fruta Fresca”), “Best Male Pop Vocal Performance” (“Fruta Fresca”), “Best Traditional Tropical Album” (“El Amor de Mi Tierra”) and “Best Tropical Song” (“Fruta Fresca”, Sep 13, 2000).
A list of hits continued, thereafter; “Dejame Entrar” won a US Grammy for “Best Traditional Tropical Album” (February 27, 2002), and won a Latin Grammys for “Best Contemporary Tropical (” Dejame Entrar”) and “Best Tropical Song” (“Dejame Entrar”). Nominations included “Record of the Year” (“Dejame Entrar”), “Album of the Year” (“Dejame Entrar”), “Song of the Year” (“Dejame Entrar”) and “Best Music Video” (“Dejame Entrar”) on September 18 , 2002.
Carlos holds the record for Latin Grammy nominations. With 6 gramophones under his belt, Vives was the first Colombian artist to win a Grammy. In Spain, he was awarded the grand prize Barcelonés ONDAS and was twice awarded two “Amigo” (Friend) awards by the Principality of Asturias.
In the body of work that followed, he introduced electric guitars, bass and drums and rock to the traditional vallenato sound, a hitherto risky and undreamt fusion, and in turn, made a claim of popular lyric. All this and more led to “El Rock de mi Pueblo”. The risk proved to be worthy as the new album would move on to win a Latin Grammy for “Best Contemporary Tropical Album”, and was nominated for “Best Tropical Song” (“Como Tu”, November 3, 2005).
Carlos Vives magnified the country’s cultural heritage and opened the doors for a future generation of Colombians artists that have brought a new stream of local music and have become the new faces of Colombia around the world. He also gave a space to children’s music by taking poems by popular author Rafael Pombo to another level. “Pombo Musical” would be awarded with a Latin Grammy in 2009 for “Best Children’s Album.”
Between 2009 and 2010 Vives returned to his roots and decided to presents yet another masterpiece with “Clásicos de La Provincia II” in partnership with the largest supermarket chain in Colombia, Exito. The album broke sales records; it became 15 x Platinum and sold more than 200,000 copies.
Vives, who as a humanitarian is committed to helping children and working towards a peaceful world, is a Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF, participated in the “Peace without Borders” (PAZ SIN FRONTERAS) concert and was invited to the Continuing Promise 2012 by the U.S. Navy.
In 2012 Carlos Vives begins a new era, television and music are the perfect combination. In a world where few idols reinvent themselves, Vives initiates a new era with grace, experience and vision.
With more that 40 songs written in the last year by the Grammy winning singer-songwriter, 12 will be selected for inclusion in Vives’ new album. The first single will be serviced to radio on September 24, followed by the premier of its music video in October. Carlos will not only bring fans a highly anticipated new album but will also grace the small screen for all Colombia to see when he joins fellow artists Ricardo Montaner, Fanny Lu and Andrés Cepeda as one of the coaches for the first season of the vocal competition series phenomenom The Voice Colombia, scheduled to premier October 1st via Colombian TV network Caracol TV.
Vives will continue to reveal news from his upcoming album and studio sessions through his official Twitter account @carlosvives. The new album will be released in 2013 together with a worldwide tour that is set to visit multiple cities throughout Latin America, the US and Europe.