There is no sound sweeter than the music that comes from a solo instrument. The flute, violin, saxophone and clarinet can provide great entertainment for audiences large and small. The human voice may be the instrument that most people enjoy. I remember my college days at the end of the semester in the spring. All music majors had to go through a jury, a solo performance attended by your teacher and two or three other teachers from the music department listening in order to give the student a final grade. The experience could be nerve rattling indeed. In addition the spring would also be the time when graduating music major students would give their own recital. The recital usually would include the student performing along with piano accompaniment. Other times there would be a small group of musicians performing together. Every recital was given in front of an audience of fellow music students and faculty. Would that make you nervous? Whether performing in larger orchestras and bands or in the smaller group we were being taught how to work together with other musicians. In college we all learned the important lesson of not only playing music, but paying attention and understanding what other musicians were playing therefore delivering the overall sound our audience would enjoy. Even though in popular music today we listen to recorded performances of various solo artists with full backup music, many times we are presented a duet, a musical composition for two performers. The research for this weeks’ feature led me to a number of effective duets. This week I chose to feature the dynamic, powerful Latin artist Shakira.
Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll was born on February 2, 1977, in Barranquilla, Colombia. With a Lebanese father and Colombian mother, Shakira honors both her Latino and Arabic heritage in her music. Shakira has won two Grammy Awards, seven Latin Grammy Awards and 12 Billboard Latin Music Awards, and has been nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Known for hits like “Whenever, Wherever” and “Hips Don’t Lie,” Shakira is the highest-selling Colombian artist of all time, and the second most successful female Latin singer after Gloria Estefan. She wrote her first song at the age of 8 and signed her first record deal at 13. After her first two albums flopped, Shakira took the reins of her third album, becoming involved in every aspect of its production. Released in 1996, Pies Descalzos, meaning “bare feet,” sold more than 3 million copies. The album featured her trademark sound, a blend of Latin, rock and Arabic musical styles.
In an attempt to increase her American fan base, in 1997, at the age of 20, the singer moved with her family here to Miami, Florida, and taught herself to write songs in English. There, she enlisted Emilio Estefan, Gloria’s husband of Miami Sound Machine fame, to act as her manager and producer. This move insured her exposure to audiences of the US and the rest is history. Shakira’s music can be described as infectious dance music. This is not an accident as she stated, “the music has to move me first. If my hips don’t move as I’m listening then it won’t work”.
Her song “Hips don’t lie” is a very good compilation with another wonderful musician Wyclef Jean. The 2006 song reached number one on charts around the world and truly solidified her as an international super star. “Hips don’t lie” was not the only successful duet for Shakira as she teamed with Beyonce the next year 2007 for the song “Beautiful Liar”. The result was another platinum recording that also reached number one or top five around the world. Of course these are not the only two compilations of Shakira’s career, as she recorded several in Spanish with other Latin artists. The amount of duets, and the variety of artists with whom she has recorded are testimony to the fact that it is easy to work with her. Shakira’s many philanthropic efforts have moved her to also lend her voice to a number of compilations most notably “Somos El Mundo 25 Por Haiti” for Earthquake relief in Haiti.
She now has released a new compilation, a duet with superstar singer Rihanna on her song, “Can’t Remember to Forget You”. Released January 13, 2014, both artists seem truly excited about the song and video. Interestingly, when questioned about working with Rihanna, Shakira said she was like the girl next door. I don’t know about all of you but the girl next door to me does not remind me of Rihanna. However, I understand that she meant after working with her she found that Rihanna was down to earth. For now we will keep an eye on the song as it rises up the charts. In addition, as I am writing this post I learned that on Shakira’s album to be released in March 2014, there will be a duet with country star and fellow judge on television show The Voice, Blake Shelton. That’s what I call eclectic! Sometimes it takes two…or more!