Carlos Vives on the situation in Venezuela: ‘I feel a great sadness’

Carlos Vives returns to Miami to sing songs from his upcoming album "Vives,' and his decades of vallenato/pop hits. Handout

Carlos Vives’ songs are ebullient anthems that fill stadiums with the sounds of Colombia’s most characteristic and sacred rhythms remixed and blended with pop music, rock ’n’ roll and even — thanks to his compatriot Shakirareggaeton. Such songs as “Déjame Entrar” and “Pa’ Mayte,” both of which came out more than a decade ago, still fill dance floors at any Latin nightclub in any part of the world. There is no feeling quite like being in a party where the crowd swells in unison to the chorus of Fruta Fresca.” 

 But though Vives’ songs are often joyous odes to love and life, culture and country, his latest album “Vives” delves into social issues facing his fellow Colombians and Latin America.

Vives, who appears Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena, understands that his songs must represent the reality of his fans’ lives — the good and the bad.

Carlos Vives, 55, is still a hitmaker.

“They know me for making very happy music, to talk about themes of identity,” says the man credited with bringing Colombian music into the mainstream. “But in this same land where we are given this musical richness, we are also shown all of this tragedy.” 

Of the 16 songs on the album, set to be released in July, he was most excited to talk about a collaboration with Cynthia Montaño, a Colombian rapper/singer from the remote and impoverished province of Chocó. This area, overwhelmingly populated by black Colombians who have been historically disenfranchised, was the inspiration for the song “Los Ninos Olvidados (The Forgotten Children),” which reflects on the treatment of neglected children.

“It’s a song with one of those urgent messages that has to do with the situation of a lot of children in my country and other Latin American countries,” Vives says.

The song “La mujer de la ventana” explores the topic of domestic violence and femicide, a byproduct, says Vives, of “an outdated machismo” that still plagues Latin America. 

The two-time Grammy Award winner is entering the final leg of his spring tour of the United States, a tour motivated by the success of “La Bicicleta,” his duet with Shakira. The runaway hit from the upcoming album scored him two Latin Grammy Awards in 2016 — for Record of the Year and Song of the Year — and his first-ever Billboard Music Award nomination for Top Latin Song. The video has more than 890 million views on YouTube and more than 200 million streams on Spotify.

The song, released in May of 2016, tore up the charts and was Vivesmost definitive crossover into the ever-charting Latin urban genre. The song gracefully weaves reggaeton and cumbia drum patterns with Vives’ definitive vallenato flare. The video, which featured a tour of both Colombian stars’ hometowns, Santa Marta and Baranquilla, on bicycles, was a nostalgic homecoming for Shakira and Vives, who had never collaborated before. 

Coming together with Shakira defied expectations, says Vives, because few could see the overlap in their styles. “People always said ‘No, Shakira sings a different kind of music.’ They said we’d never be able to do anything together because she’s not going to do vallenato,” he says. “But Shakira told me that she loved the spirit of vallenato of the song.” 

Saturday’s concert is Vives’ first in Miami in more than a year. Touring the United States has allowed him to keep his finger on the pulse of Latinos around the country who are troubled by anti-immigrant sentiments.

 He remains hopeful: “I think that politics raises issues, but the reality, the daily life, how things move in this country — at the end, we are all still here lending each other a hand. North Americans value the people that work hard for this country.”

Vives, who lived in Miami in the ’90s, is concerned, however, for the pain of Miami’s Venezuelan community.

“We are brothers. We are the exact same. I feel a great sadness to see the situation that my brothers in Venezuela are living in, to see the poverty. And to see how from a distance they are still suffering what is happening in Venezuela. It’s very painful. To have to leave your country is a tragedy. Imagine what the economic situation must be. We’re talking about this happening to what was the richest country in Latin America.”

IF YOU GO

What: Carlos Vives in concert
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Cost: $27-$151
Info: www.aaarena.com

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