Colombia may be stigmatized by its ongoing conflicts, but add musician Juanes to the South American country's list of thriving exports, which includes coffee and emeralds. The 40-year-old singer is one of several Colombian musicians, which includes Carlos Vives and Shakira, to have made a successful crossover from Latin rock into the English market. On Sunday, he'll hit the Straz Center stage. Born Juan Esteban Aristizabal - his stage name came about by putting together his two first names - Tampa is the singer-songwriter's last stop on his "Loud & Unplugged" tour, that has traveled from New York to Los Angeles. Winner of 19 Latin Grammys and two Grammys, Juanes, who comes from humble origins in Colombia and lives in Miami, frequently visits his mother's home in Medellin, where he is celebrated.
Just recently, a statue of Juanes was erected in his parents' hometown of Carolina del Principe. "It was kind of a strange experience (when the statue was revealed), you understand, I almost feel a little ashamed, but it was something the people of Carolina wanted to do," he says. "And it was actually a good chance to go back and reminisce." Juanes says he inherited his musical side from his father, fondly remembering spending afternoons learning to play several instruments, including piano, guitar and flute, while his father sang. He learned to play guitar from his brother. Juanes launched his musical career in Colombia as a heavy metal rocker with a band called Ekhymosis. After almost a decade, the group disbanded and Juanes went out on his own and in 2000 put out his first album, "Fíjate Bien." That album earned him three Latin Grammys and his 2002 follow-up, "Un Día Normal," skyrocketed him to stardom with the hit "A Dios le pido", which spent 92 weeks in the top 10 of Billboard's Top Latin Albums list. Since then, Juanes has sold more than 15 million records, earned a spot on the world stage as part of opening ceremonies of the FIFA World Cup and winning his second Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album with "Juanes: MTV Unplugged Deluxe Edition." He also published his autobiography, "Chasing the Sun," which is available in both English and Spanish. " 'Chasing the Sun' is a lot about my dreams and about the way my life has been since I was a kid - chasing the sun through music," he said. "It's about that dream-like idea you have when you get up in the morning and just wanting everyday to be better, do new things." For his concert in Tampa, expect a lot of familiar tunes but new work as well, from his upcoming album. "I'm bringing out a new song in Tampa called 'Cumbia Sexy.' I'm concentrating on doing another record in Spanish ... I'm going to start recording the new album at the end of July and it should be released early next year."
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday Where: Straz Center, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa Tickets: $49.50 to $65.50; (813) 229-7827 and www.strazcenter.org