Who Is Shakira?
Shakira is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, a Columbian-born singer, dancer, musician, music producer, and songwriter who has been a pop music sensation in Latin America since the early-1990’s, and became a Latin American pop legend after the release of her ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones? album, which has sold over 10 million copies worldwide. Following the release of her album Laundry Service in 2001, Shakira became a crossover star attraction in American mainstream pop.
Besides her catchy songs, Shakira has made a name for herself with her individual, idiosyncratic dance style, which incorporates Latin American and Middle Eastern (belly dance) styles that she has made all her own. While there are many Latin American musicians who are huge in the Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking countries, but hardly known in America, the UK, and other English-language nations, she has become a household name in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
Shakira was born in Barranquilla, Columbia in 1977, and she was of mixed Spanish Catalan, Italian, and Lebanese descent. She began writing poetry at age 4, and she wrote her first song at age 8, “Your Dark Glasses”, which was about her half-brother, who had recently died in a motorcycle accident, and how her father hid his grief at this incident behind his dark glasses.
As a child, Shakira was known for her impromptu performances, dancing at an Arab restaurant for the patrons, or known as the “belly dance girl” for her Friday performances for classmates. She tried out for the school choir in second grade, but was rejected, because the choir teacher thought her vibrato sounded “like a goat”. This did not dissuade her from performing, and she began to get a name from age 10-13 in the Barranquilla area, for her public performances.
Meanwhile, Shakira’s father was forced to declare bankruptcy, and she lived with relatives in Los Angeles at age 8, while the family’s economic difficulties were resolved. Upon returning to Columbia, she was shocked to see how many family possessions had been lost. Devastated by the loss of her family’s wealth, these feelings took a different turn when Shakira’s father took her to a local park to see the orphaned children there, and Shakira told herself she would one day have the money to help out similar orphans.
At age 13, she was spotted by Monica Ariza, a local theater producer, who was determined that Shakira would be noticed by record producers. She arranged an audition with Sony Columbia executives and, after an initial rejection by a single executive, she impressed a larger group of Sony execs, so they signed her to a three record deal.
- Magia – 1990
- Peligro – 1993
- Nuestro Rock (compilation) – 1995
- Pies Descalzos – 1995
- ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones? – 1998
- Laundry Service (Servicio De Lavanderia) – 2001
- Grandes Exitos (compilation) – 2002
- Oral Fixation Vol. 1 (Fijacion Oral Vol. 1) – 2005
- Oral Fixation Vol. 2 (Fijacion Oral Vol. 2) – 2005
- She Wolf – 2009
- Sale el Sol – 2010
Shakira’s Rise to Success
Shakira released several Spanish-language albums to begin her career, including her debut album, Magia, and 1993’s Peligro. These releases garnered some attention in her native Columbia, but she did not have creative control, and were such a disappointment to her that she refused to promote the second album. Both have been taken out of circulation these days, and are not considered part of Shakira’s official releases (instead being labeled “promotional releases”).
Shakira’s fame and professional reputation began to grow with 1995’s Pies Descalzos, which Sony paid her $100,000 to produce, because they had no expectation it would sell more than 100,000 copies. Given creative control for the first time, she produced an album which was heavily influenced by American alternative sounds, and contained grittier sounds and smarter lyrics than critics expected. Pies Descalzos debuted at #1 in 8 countries and spawned 6 hit singles, though the album made little impact in the U.S. mainstream market (#5 on the U.s. Latin music charts).
Hit Songs off Pies Descalzos
- Estoy Aqui
- ¿Dónde Estás Corazón?
- Pies Descalzo, Sueons Blancos
- Un Poco De Amor
- Se Quiere, Se Mata
This album made her an international pop star, though she was still an unknown in the United States and most English-speaking countries. The album went on to sell 5 million copies.
¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones?
¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones? was the 1998 release by Shakira, and this album was even more popular than Pies Descalzos. Eventually, ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones? would produce 8 singles, and has since sold 1.5 million records in the U.S. market alone. At the time, despite the Latin American success, this underrated record only reached #131 on the U.S. Billboard Top 200 chart.
Singles from ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones?
- Ciega, Sordomuda
- Moscas En La Casa
- No Creo
- Si Te Vas
- Octavo Día
- Ojos Así
Rolling Stone Magazine gave this album 4 out of 5 stars, and “No Creo” broke the Top 100 on the U.S. Billboard Top 100, so Shakira was becoming a name in the States. It would be her next album that she became a worldwide pop icon.
Laundry Service – Shakira
Shakira finally catered to an English-speaking audience in 2001’s Laundry Service, which was her first English-language release. This also contained her breakout hit, “Whenever, Wherever”, which was ubiquitous worldwide in 2001. with the popularity of Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias in those days, she got a push from her record label, who wanted to make her a crossover, mainstream American act like those Latin stars. Given her chance, Shakira hit the ball out of the park, and Laundry Service had sold 20 million copies worldwide in 2002, a year in which Laundry Service was globally the top selling album.
Singles from Laundry Service
- Whenever, Wherever / Suerte
- Underneath Your Clothes
- Objection (Tango) / Te Aviso, Te Anuncio (Tango)
- The One
- Te Dejo Madrid
- Que Me Quedes Tu
- Poem to a Horse
Visit MySpace for more Shakira songs.
Shakira These Days
Since then, Shakira has released several more albums, which have continued to surpass expectations. She remains a favorite act in the Latin American nations, while topping charts in the English speaking world, as well. With her massive fame worldwide, Shakira has used her name and her money to become a philanthropist, helping the type of unfortunate people in Latin America her father once pointed out to her as a child.