May 26, 2006

Latino stars wage war against landmines

By Ernesto Lechner

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - There's artistry to
spare in contemporary Latin music. There's passion and
spontaneity and an exquisite sense of momentum that, against
all odds, continues to push the genre forward -- years after
Ricky Martin ceased to live la vida loca and the so-called
Latin music explosion came to an abrupt halt in this country.

The vitality of Latin music was apparent throughout the
Colombia Sin Minas benefit concert Wednesday at the Gibson.
Perhaps because it favored an unplugged, somewhat improvised
format, the performances underscored the caliber of such
heavyweights as Colombian pop rocker Juanes, Spanish heartthrob
Alejandro Sanz and vallenato modernizer Carlos Vives.

The sold-out show benefited Colombia Sin Minas, an
organization that helps the young victims of the many land
mines that guerrilla fighters have spread in the countryside of
the South American nation.

Surprisingly enough, the evening began with the event's
organizer and headliner, Juanes, whose million-selling albums
sound at times a bit too slick for their own good. He delivered
ragged versions of the politically charged "Suenos" and the
bouncy "La Camisa Negra."

He was quickly joined by his compatriot Vives for a
smoldering "El Amor de Mi Tierra," an ode to Colombia marked by
the pungent accordion licks of Egidio Cuadrado.

In between songs, testimony from kids who have lost limbs
to land mines was projected on video screens. Far from being
sentimental, the heart-wrenching stories evoked the very
essence of daily life in Latin America -- the extreme
combination of joy, sadness and hope that you find in a Gabriel
Garcia Marquez novel or a Ruben Blades record.

This aesthetic path also is followed by Juan Luis Guerra,
one of the concert's most riveting performers. Like most Latin
musicians worth their salt, Guerra has reinvented the folk
idioms of his land (in this case, the spiraling guitar lines of
the Dominican Republic's bachata) through the addition of
mainstream pop idioms and raucous rock 'n' roll.

The solemnity of the occasion inspired all of the evening's
participants. Even Puerto Rico's Luis Fonsi, whose syrupy pop
is serviceable at best, sounded positively mellifluous on
"Abrazar la Vida."

Juanes, Vives and the remaining performers (including guest
presenter Salma Hayek) reconvened onstage for a sunny version
of Guerra's "Ojala Que Llueva Cafe." Harmonically rich and
refreshingly candid, it was the perfect finale to a memorable

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter