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Juanes was born Juan Esteban Aristizabel in Medellin, Colombia.
At the age of seven, Juanes learns to play guitar from his father and older brothers. He falls in love with the instrument and immerses himself in learning the traditional Latin sounds of boleros, tangos, cumbias, and Colombian folk music such as vallenatto and guasca. From then on, a guitar is rarely out of arms reach - even when he had to spend time scouting pawnshops for guitars he could afford.
Today, those days of scrounging for guitars are behind him, as his natural talent for the instrument has led to Juanes being the only Latin artist signed for sponsorship by FENDER.
Over his years in Colombia, Juanes experienced firsthand the grief that comes with personal loss from violence, as kidnappers executed his cousin (even after a ransom had been paid) and another close friend was killed by gunmen in a nightclub. His grief was compounded when he also lost his father to cancer.
At the age of fourteen (as many teenage boys do), Juanes discovered Metal music, specifically Metallica. As a result, he quickly adapted his guitar playing to match his new favorite band, and became a founding member of Colombian rock/metal band Ekhymosis (translation: bruise).
Over the course of 11 years, Ekhymosis makes seven albums and become local favorites throughout Colombia. Eventually, having outgrown the desire to just play metal, Juanes decides to depart/disband the group in 1999.
With little more then his guitar and a cassette of song demos in his pocket, Juanes relocates to Los Angeles to begin pursuing a solo music career. Juanes' demo makes its way into the hands of famed Latin Alternative producer Gustavo Santaolalla, who quickly recognizes the Colombian singer-songwriter's natural talent and signs Juanes to his record label Surco.
In 2000 Juanes & Santaolalla form a natural artistic partnership as they begin to craft the artist's debut album. An extremely prolific songwriter, Juanes spends nearly every waking moment for months in the studio working through dozens of potential songs.
Having found the perfect musical complement in Santaolalla, Juanes likewise finds the perfect career partner as he is taken under the wing of faced Latin music manager (and fellow Colombian) Fernan Martinez, who had already crafted the meteoric rise of Enrique Iglesias.
Juanes' debut album "Fijate Bien" ('Listen Closely') is released by Surco/Universal Latin on October 17th, 2000. Musically fusing Juanes' highly accomplished guitar work with multiple Latin rhythm styles from his native Colombia, while also showcasing deeply introspective lyrics examining violence, social conscience and the loss of loved ones, Juanes' "Fijate Bien" is obviously a landmark album for the growing Latin Alternative genre. Whether it's the title track's all-to-real example of having to watch out for land mines with each step taken in his homeland, to the messages conveyed in other singles such as "Nada" or "Podemos Hacernos Dano," the lyrical metaphors throughout the album signal the solo debut of not just an immensely talented musician, but also a Latin rock social poet.
Upon the release of the album, Juanes initially focuses on working promotion throughout Latin America to build an audience for the album. The record is quickly embraced throughout Colombia where it spends 10 weeks at #1. As a result, while hard-core Latin rock fans in the U.S. are discovering the album through word of mouth, to the broader Latin audience, the album remains an undiscovered treasure.
The start of the year 2000 sees Juanes continuing to build his fan base throughout Latin America. On July 17, the hard work and strategy in Latin America pays off, as Juanes shocks the Latin Music world (and himself) as he receives an unprecedented seven nominations for the Latin Grammy Awards - marking the first (of many times to come) that he would lead the field of artists at a major Award ceremony. In a now well known story, Juanes himself was so surprised at the recognition that he initially believed he should not attend the nomination ceremony - thinking that he would be lost among the famous name Latin Pop Stars. Of course, by the ceremony's end, all other artists were applauding his accomplishment.
Spurred on by the record-breaking number of nominations for Juanes, both Latin music writers and fans scramble to learn more about the unassuming Colombian. Of course, upon delving into "Fijate Bien," a much larger audience discovers a Latin music masterwork.
In the lead-up to the planned Latin Grammy ceremony in September, press across the United States share the message of "Fijate Bien":
Juanes gives his first series of U.S. concert performances as part of the Watcha tour - winning rave reviews:
As the leading nominee, Juanes is invited to perform on CBS' primetime telecast of The Latin Grammy Awards. The planned September 11 broadcast will be his broad introduction to the American public. He spends the days leading up to the awards rehearsing and participating in "Grammy In The Schools" program with students. Juanes also makes his first live network TV appearance, performing live on CBS' Early Show - on September 10, 2001.
Upon the dawn of September 11, 2001, it is instantly apparent that the Latin Grammy Awards will be cancelled in light of the terrorist attacks upon New York and Washington. The irony of the cancellation of the telecast is that the very message that Juanes was being heralded for becomes all the more relevant - that violence can strike any of our lives at any moment, and that we should constantly embrace the people of importance in our lives.
On September 14th, Juanes performs at the very first fund-raising event to benefit victim's families, quickly organized by NARAS & LARAS.
On October 30th, in an emotional and reserved ceremony in Los Angeles, the much-delayed awards are finally presented to the selected winners. Juanes wins three Latin Grammy Awards, including the recognition as "Best New Artist" of the year. Juanes is also the only artist asked to sing at the ceremony - delivering a heartfelt acoustic performance.
On the very evening of the awards presentation, Juanes returns to the Surco studio in Los Angeles - downloading more than 40 new demos that he has written. This wealth of new material will form the backbone of his second album.
Hit songs include --
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