“My father taught me that music isn’t about glamour, it’s a way of life that must come from...
His image as a bold, carefree kid doesn’t match up with a restless mind that can’t stop thinking, making music and writing lyrics. At 29, Colombia’s Juan Fernando Fonseca, better known simply by his last name, is one of today’s most successful singer-songwriters. His brand of musical celebration, known as tropipop, is catching on worldwide and some have classified it as “a new musical genre.” Tropipop began two decades ago with the group Baroja and continued to gain steam when Fonseca lauched as a solo artist in 2002. His big hits include “Mangangué,” “Te mando flores” and “Hace tiempo.” Last year, he released a new album, Gratitud.
What is behind the title of your most recent album?
“One of my favorite tracks on the album is ‘Gratitud’ (Gratitude). It’s also a very nice word that perfectly describes where I find myself in life: grateful to be alive, for my career, for all my blessings.”
There are some lyrics in English on this album. Is it the first step towards a crossover?
“I don’t know. Let’s just say that the English lyrics just flowed, and I’m happy that they came to me so naturally. But I’m not thinking about recording an album entirely in English – I think I would get tired of singing an entire album in that language. But using Spanglish in songs seems a lot more doable. It’s so much fun.” »
Some compare your style to that of Carlos Vives. What do you think?
“I feel proud when I’m compared to someone so successful, someone I like and respect a lot. I’m very appreciative of people like him, Shakira and Juanes. I think all Colombians, but especially musicians, owe them a tremendous debt because their music and rhythms have opened doors to new places.”
Over the past five years, you’ve visited a number of places in Latin America. What did you gain from that experience?
“In Latin America, there are so many countries that make you feel at home. I’m always surprised when I go to another country, and I find Colombian flavors. Sometimes there are accents that remind me of certain regions in my country. And above all, our shared language and love of music unite us.”
Speaking of Colombia, which places that haven’t yet been discovered by tourists deserve more attention?
“Wow! My country is full of beautiful spots, so it’s hard to pick just one. Colombia has it all: mountains, rivers, art… But if I had to choose, I’d tell them to go to Barú, an hour from Cartagena: these islands are simply spectacular. They have beautiful beaches, where you can practice water sports, observe a variety of wildlife and just have a great time.”
What comes to mind when you think of your native city, Bogotá?
“The smell of coffee and grilled meat, the aroma of history, flowers and home, since it is the city in which I live. I think of its wonderful cold climate…and my birthday celebrations every May 29.”
When you finish traveling and touring, what do you enjoy doing at home?
“I love lounging on my couch and in my bed – reading, watching TV, music videos and movies. I go to bed late, and I get up late. I’ve never been an early bird. Fortunately, I have a recording studio at home. And since music comes to me all the time, I can just jump up out of bed and be sitting in my studio in a matter of seconds, writing a song.”