Colombian Rock Star Juanes Talks About The World Cup

Juanes at the 2010 World Cup

Colombian rock star Juanes will perform at the opening ceremony for the 2010 World Cup.  He says he's not sure if he wants a Latin American or African team to take the cup home. Michelly Rall/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Michelly Rall/Getty Images

Today is the FIFA World Cup kickoff celebration, and it promises to be a dazzling event. The lineup includes Shakira, John Legend, The Black Eyed Peas and Juanes. (You can stream it live at Vevo's World Cup site.)

Speaking of Juanes, the immensely popular Latin rock star will be singing his brand new single, Yerbatero for the very first time at this concert. In case you just woke up from a ten year coma and don’t know who Juanes is, here’s a brief description: He’s a socially conscious, impossibly handsome Colombian singer who has sold more than 15 million albums and won 17 Latin Grammys (more than any other artist) and one Grammy Award.  A few days ago I touched base with Juanes during a rehearsal break. We talked about soccer, music… and then some more about soccer.

You'll be able to hear this interview in Spanish or English on our new Latin Alternative/Rock en Español Show, which I host along with Felix Contreras. But for now, here's the full transcript:

Q: Tell us what its like over there in South Africa now.

Well, the environment here in South Africa is spectacular. From the moment we arrived at the airport, people here in South Africa have these smiles on their face, this super positive energy. I think everyone is also grateful toward FIFA for bringing the World Cup to this country.  And I think their reasoning for doing so was totally fair; they deserve the World Cup to be here in this country... I think it's going to be a very important boost for the entire African continent, so people really show that, people here are really happy, polite, very enthusiastic...

Q: Are there fans everywhere?

Absolutely, when I got into the airport, there were Chilean fans, Argentine fans... In the streets you can see all the different flags from different countries, the cars, the  people playing drums everywhere on the street... I mean it's really one big party.

Q: What songs remind you of soccer?

You just mentioned them. To me, those are the official world cup songs — the Manu Chao songs. They have this absolutely frenetic energy... I love them.

Q: Tell us about your soon to be released new single Yerbatero.

Yerbatero is a song born out of a common character, which you find all around the world. You know initially I thought it was a local thing, but it's a type of person who exists everywhere. Yerbateros are sort of witch doctors who come from the mountains bringing a great deal of medicines and potions made from plants to cure heart conditions, to fix baldness, even to make your lover come back to you.

These witch doctors are very humorous, mystical and fantastic. And i've known these types of doctors since my childhood because in this small town where I lived with my family, every Sunday the Yerbatero — who in Colombia is also known as the Curandero or Culebrero — would come sell all these potions for the lovesick. And so I wanted to make this song, with a lot of energy, with a mix of rock music and popular Colombian music. And i'm really happy with the results.  June 10th is the song's release date and we are actually going to release it here in South Africa, singing live at the concert, so I'm super grateful and excited for this opportunity.

Q: What do you think musics role in soccer is?

Music has an essential role in soccer. I think the powerful mix between music and soccer is amazing, because both things are almost like religions for people. It's a way of bringing people together, and being together around soccer, but also culture and music... It means a lot. I'm really happy. I'm really grateful for the opportunity to be here.

Q: Can you tell us more about your upcoming world performance?

Well we are going to perform a kind of potpurri of songs. We'll be doing two songs from prior albums, obviously La Camisa Negra, and then we'll be performing another song from another album, we haven't decided on that yet. And then Yerbatero... So we'll be performing three songs, that's about 9 minutes on stage, so, it'll be a celebration!

Q: For people who don't follow soccer, like...a lot of Americans...how would you describe the world cup?

(Laughs) Well I would describe the world cup as being almost like a religion. Because soccer is a fever, an indescribable magic, for us it's almost like in our blood. Entire countries stand in support for 11 players and one ball and it really serves to unite people. Soccer is magical.

Q: What are your soccer memories?

I remember a lot of kicking and bruising because (laughs) I've always been a bad soccer player. But I remember in school, during breaks I would play, or during gym class. Even during tours, eventually we would assemble a game with our technicians and other musicians. So soccer has always been there. Soccer is like this opportunity to get together and celebrate; it's also a very healthy competition.

Q: What's your team back in Colombia?

My team is the Nacional Medellin.

Q: You're working on a new album, how is it going?

Good, very good, very happy....we're about to finish the new album. In fact, after this South African concert I'm headed to London to finish recording. We're almost done. I wrote all twelve songs and they are about, life, love, challenge, you know about things that happen to us in our everyday life, human relations and what they mean, the reality of today's world. There's also a lot of celebration and love in the album. I'd say it's really a positive album.

Q: So finally a really important question: Who's going to win the world cup?

The World Cup, well, (laughs) this is the toughest question. There are two options here: On the one hand I would love a Latin American country to win. Argentina, Spain, Mexico or Chile... But I would also like the Cup to stay in the African continent, which historically has been so punished. It would be great to see the Cup stay in Africa. But who knows, lets hope this World Cup is something different and lets hope some roles change.

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