By Kat Bein
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By Michael E. Miller
As vallenato grows in popularity via superstar Carlos Vives, other Colombian acts have begun enjoying fame stateside as well. One of the latest is the twosome of singer-songwriter Jorge Celedón and accordionist Jimmy Zambrano, who perform this Friday in support of De Lo Nuevo ... Lo Mejor (Norte/BMG), their first album to get a full release in the States.
Celedón began singing as a child, honing his skills in the region of La Guajira, arguably vallenato's cradle (the name translates as "born in the valley" and is also the birthplace of several other stars of the genre). As an adult, he joined a local group called Binomio de Oro, performing with it until 1998, when he decided to strike out on his own and form the duo with Zambrano.
The two have been active in giving back to fans, using their growing popularity to bring attention to Colombia's various social problems. This past July 18, they traveled to Washington, D.C., to join Juanes, Miguel Bosé, and former guerrilla hostage Ingrid Betancourt (via satellite from Paris) to celebrate their country's independence day. The artists also collectively demand the release of individuals whom FARC still holds hostage there. The next day, Celedón and Zambrano also appeared at the White House, where they performed for a small audience that included President Bush.
Their music is also socially engaged. Among the various romantic songs on the new disc is "Libertad," a tune whose poignant words denounce FARC and the deaths caused by the ongoing guerrilla warfare. At the Knight Concert Hall, they will perform with the backing of a full symphony orchestra, a rare treat for their many fans.