By Jacob Katel
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The fact that this Colombian-born rockero opts not to sing any of his songs in English doesn't seem to hurt his appeal in the United States. Wherever he goes, his many fans buy out arenas and sing along to every tune, including even the more recent singles from La Vida Es ... un Ratico (Life Is But a Moment), his latest disc with Universal Music Latina.
Though this 12-time Latin Grammy winner has reached sex-symbol status thanks to his good looks, he is also a highly talented musician who knows how to handle an axe. In a live setting, Juanes leads his tight six-piece band with powerful chords but also showcases accomplished soloing skills in tunes such as "Bailalá," which plays out like a jazz-influenced jam. He expertly blends funk and rock beats with his Latin influences, concocting something both fresh and familiar.
And like Anglophone guitar gods Bono and Bruce Springsteen, Juanes has given back by embracing socially conscious causes. These have included the Rock the Vote movement (for which he recorded a bilingual video that also features Shakira and Calle 13), as well as charities that benefit the victims of land mines. The latter he addresses live during the poignant ballad "Minas Piedras (Rock Mines)"; as he sings, a slide show featuring victims appears on-screen, immediately bringing audience awareness to the issue.
The recent political troubles facing his native country are not forgotten either; he has made clear allusions to that onstage during "Bandera de Manos" ("Flag of Hands"), metaphorically embracing his Venezuelan and Ecuadoran neighbors. This past March 16, Juanes also fulfilled his goal of performing a free concert in the city of Cúcuta, located on the border of Colombia and Venezuela. It was a way, according to a statement on his official website, to demonstrate that the three Latin nations are part of a brotherhood, despite their political differences.