Silvestre Dangond says he’s like a salmon.
Actually, his exact words are: “I’m like that fish I like.”
The king of Colombia’s accordion-heavy vallenato genre has dabbled in urbano with Nicky Jam, Maluma, and Natti Natasha duets to commercially successful results. Still, he always returns to his folkloric roots. And that, he says, makes him similar to salmon, which are born in freshwater and eventually venture out into the ocean before returning to their birthplace to spawn.
The analogy is spot-on. You’d think Dangond uses it all the time in interviews, if not for the fact he needs help remembering the name of the fish during our phone call. Never mind that the 40-year-old Colombian singer is known for speaking off the cuff. He isn't much for sticking to a script.
Dangond enjoyed Latin mainstream success with the Nicky Jam collaboration “Cásate Conmigo” (681 million YouTube views) and the Natti Natasha collabo "Justicia" (556 million views). And then he went right back to churning out the traditional vallenato hits you'll be hearing at boozy Colombian get-togethers for years to come, including the romantic title track from his latest album, Las Locuras Mías.
“People are possessive when it comes to their music,” says Dangond, who is scheduled to perform eight reduced-capacity shows May 6-16 at the Fillmore Miami Beach. “They love you when you start out in their music, but then they're upset when you leave. It's sad to see [vallenato] fans upset when I don't give them what they want. But they also need to understand I'm happy doing [these songs]. And many do understand that and support the vallenato-urbano fusions.
"This sort of thing doesn’t just happen in music, " he adds. "It upsets fans when soccer players leave their team for another team too. Vallenato fans didn’t want to lose me — but they didn’t lose me: I came back."
The relationship between Dangond and vallenato, once considered the music of farmers, has been mutually beneficial. It was vallenato that vaulted Dangond from Colombia’s Caribbean coast to radio stations and clubs across the South American country, and then some. And it's Dangond who has served as the face of the new generation of vallenato and has steadily helped the music cross borders.
"The [vallenato] genre is very real,” Dangond says. “It doesn’t have a filter. If someone is suffering, they express it in song. There aren’t four or five people producing one song about suffering without actually feeling it. We're folklore — and folklore is not pop. That's why you don't hear [traditional] vallenato on U.S. radio stations — only local Spanish stations. I had to combine vallenato with another genre to bring it to other audiences."
Would Dangond risk upsetting his purist vallenato fans and release an entire album of vallenato-urbano tracks?
"There's a lot I want to do. Don't pressure me," Dangond says, laughing. "But I'm going to keep my mouth shut. At any moment, you might hear a weird song come out. Let yourself be surprised."
Dangond hasn't given much thought to releasing a bilingual track with an Anglo artist, as has become the trend in music lately. He has had a hard enough time trying to get his three children to sing vallenato in English for him. Dangond — who has been living in Miami for about a decade — says his kids are fluent in English, unlike their dad.
"If I spoke English, I'd be the king of the world," he jokes.
It certainly would help Dangond's ability to cross over into new markets, but he's made progress in that area even without speaking English. He was supposed to perform in Paris, London, Zurich, and Milan on his 2020 Mis Locuras tour before it was canceled owing to the pandemic. That tour included a July 25 show at American Airlines Arena.
Fans who were disappointed they didn't get to see Dangond belt out "Niégame Tres Veces," "Me Gusta, Me Gusta," and "Materialista" at the Triple-A (the show scheduled for July 17, 2021, was also canceled) can instead now see him perform live during his eight-night residency at the Fillmore Miami Beach. He says these shows will have a reduced capacity of 800, which means the 2,461-seat Fillmore will be, at most, one-third full each night.
Anyone who has attended or seen video of Dangond's sweaty, jam-packed concerts — which feel like they play on loop at some Colombian bars and restaurants — knows these socially distanced and mask-enforced Fillmore shows will be a major departure from the norm.
Dangond doesn't seem worried.
"I'm not there yet," Dangond says. "I don't like to stress out too far ahead of time. I start bracing myself when I'm in the belly of the beast. Right now I'm relaxed. I'm promoting the concerts. I want to make people feel comfortable about attending. I know there's a lot of uncertainty due to COVID.
"It will be very different, but with the same essence and energy as always. The amount of people in the audience won't keep me from being me."
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