Move On Up

The name Juanes may not carry the same weight in the United States as, say, Ricky Martin. But that’s changing. Sure, Juanes hasn’t had his “La Vida Loca”-type breakthrough hit. But then again, that’s not really his style. Though Juanes’ first solo album, Fijate Bien, came out a year after Martin’s big hit, he’s not some johnny-come-lately trying to cash in on the Latin Explosion. Nor is the native Colombian a prefabricated pop star out to impress the ladies. This guy’s a real musician – one who found his way after years of hard work, hard times, and even harder music.

Juanes knew tough times growing up, having lost his father to cancer, his cousin to kidnappers, and a friend to gunmen. His music encountered some rough-riding as well. Like many a budding music-maker, Juanes’ love for guitar playing took a turn down Electric Avenue, by way of the Metal Expressway. Yep, Juanes was a bonafide metalhead. His band, Ekhymosis, was Colombia’s answer to Metallica in the late 1980s. However, by the time Ekhymosis caught its final mosh in 1998, its brand of metal had become more poppy than heavy. For Juanes, it was solo time – uh, not playing a guitar solo, but going solo. And all it took was a move to Los Angeles for Juanes to realize his dream.

Fortunately, Juanes’ dream involves more than a limo full of babes and booze. His "A Dios le Pido" ("I Ask God") is an anthemic cry for peace that sets him apart from the average radio-friendly fare. Juanes’ growing success is a testament to the value of hard work. But it also proves that there’s life after heavy metal. Oh, and what a sweet life it is.
Sat., Jan. 28, 8 p.m.

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Jason Budjinski