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Shakira is perhaps the most recognizable and certainly, the most intriguing voice in Latin pop/rock today. The 21-year-old singer/songwriter, who catapulted to international fame with the multi-million selling “Pies Descalzos,” effectively broke the formulaic mold of Latin pop with an authentic sound that hadn`t been heard before. Her tunes, like her hit single “Estoy Aqu?”, are melodic, musically surprising and gritty, with intellectual lyrics and an electronic/acoustic blend. Now, her gutsy, rock-infused album, “Donde Est?n los Ladrones,” with Emilio Estefan`s Executive Production, and Shakira`s Artistic Production assures her position as a pioneer who has redefined the scope of Latin American singers. The album shines with the superb production standards and crossover appeal Estefan is known for, while leaving intact the spirit and integrity of all that is Shakira. “My music,” she says, “is sincere, everyday music. It is music that stems from a completely genuine source.” It is also remarkable music by any standard, but even more so coming from someone so young. Born Shakira Mebarak Ripoll in the coastal city of Barranquilla, Colombia, Shakira-who goes by her first name only– is that blend of raw talent, brains and charisma that only rarely comes along in any field. Her name, which in Arabic means “woman full of grace,” belies her ancestry. She is the daughter of a Colombian mother and a Lebanese father-a jeweler and writer whose Arabic background greatly influenced his daughter. Shakira`s fondness for music was apparent early on, and she started winning local and national talent contests at age 10. By 13, she had signed a record deal with Sony in Colombia, which resulted in her first album, “Magia (Magic),” a compilation of songs she wrote between the ages of 8 and 13. It was an effort that put Shakira in Colombia`s musical map, and led to her being chosen to represent her country at the Fesival OTI in Spain. Because she was under the minimum age of 16, she wasn`t allowed to participate. So instead, Shakira recorded a second album of original material, “Peligro (Danger).” At that point, Shakira took a break from music, graduated from high school (at age 15-really) and came back with a vengeance. The result was the phenomenally successful “Pies Descalzos,” a hit-laden smash, which has sold close to four million copies worldwide. Shakira became an international sensation touring for an almost solid two years, playing her songs to sold-out audiences throughout the world. In Brazil alone, “Pies Descalzos” sold in excess of 900,000 copies, leading Shakira to record remixes in Portuguese for her Brazilian fans. She abandoned the light pop format she had been doing and declined her label`s suggestion to explore more commercial avenues. Instead, she insisted on recording her very own brand of music: a blend of pop and rock that was unprecedented for a Colombian musician, much less a woman. Such a smashing hit seems impossible to surpass. But Shakira has done it with “Donde Estan los Ladrones,” a collection of potential hits that further explores the realms of rock `n` roll without losing Shakira`s authenticity. “It is totally refreshing for me to work with an artist who knows exactly what she wants, both at a musical and a personal level,” said Emilio Estefan. “Her music is Shakira. It`s real music.” No wonder, then, that it was Shakira who was chosen among dozens of female Latin singers to grace the cover of Time Magazine in a recent article titled “Era of the Rockera”. Last year, the Colombian government designated Shakira as an official goodwill ambassador, the Pope granted her an audience in the Vatican, and she was named Latin Female Artist of the Year at the World Music Awards in Monaco in May. The next logical step is crossover to the English market, a goal that is now closer than ever. Critics are already hailing “Donde Estan los Ladrones” as a breakthrough album whose thought-provoking songs (the title track skewers thieves) that leave her standing a notch taller than a slew of female singer/songwriters, heard on radio today. Shakira`s first single, translated by Gloria Estefan, is already in the works. For the most exciting singer/songwriter to come out of Latin America in years, the possibilities are endless. For the millions that already buy her albums, she is already the voice of a new generation.
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