Energetic, unadulterated and infectious – those are the 3 words that perfectly describe the music of upcoming 34-year-old Colombian talent, Juan Muñoz (pronounced as “Huan Mun-nioz”). Firstly, let it be known that I am no native speaker of Spanish, let alone Latin American Spanish, however that is not stopping me from enjoying Juan’s Spanish debut album. Music is after all the world’s local language.
I first met Juan at his album launch party in September at one of Singapore’s famous salsa night clubs, Union Square. “Hello, thanks for coming down,” smiled the Colombian musician whose unpretentious presence clicked easily with almost everyone in the room as he generously shook hands. Indeed, one cannot help but see him as an instant friend rather than a distant star. And a star he was as Juan and his band set the stage on fire – an electrifying performance reeked with Latin vibes fused with funky rock, salsa beats and groovy jazz. Emotions resonated from his smooth soaring voice, while musical passion vibrated through his guitar chords struck by fingers swifter than my typing skills. The cheering crowd gyrated to the contagious rhythms through the night. Even I could not escape the hypnotic beats, unaware of my tapping foot despite neither being an avid listener to Latin music nor a salsa dancer, I must confess.
Born in the beautiful city of Medellin, Colombia, Juan grew up surrounded by his grandmother, mother, sister and niece, cultivating in him the respect towards women. As a young boy, Juan was into sports, arts and hip-hop dancing. Music first found its way to the young boy’s heart when he stumbled across a man who taught him how to play “Stairway to Heaven”. A week later, he accompanied his cousin to attend a guitar class. Months of regular guitar lessons meant borrowing his cousin’s guitar since he did not own one. Juan’s teacher was so impressed by his progress that he placed him at the front centre of the annual recital, some time before his uncle bought him his first guitar as a birthday gift. The young guitarist briefly attended university to study music education before his mother’s passing led him to drop out the course. Despite the tragedy, Juan refused to give up his dream: “I chose to be a musician because I love it. It was a gift that came to me and fate and hard work allowed me to continue with it until this day.” The fledgling musician started playing Latin rock/pop before venturing into other genres like Salsa, Merengue, Bachata and Cha-cha in Asia for the next 6 years.
Influenced by personal life experiences, Juan writes and composes all his songs, an honourable trait that is diminishing among today’s commercial artistes. “I believe every song has its own soul and you can’t force it to be something that’s not meant to be,” Juan shared his motto as I nodded in agreement, “I retain my individuality because I know exactly what I like and who I want to be. Its important to stay true to myself.”
Each of his lyrical compositions in his album are rich in meaning with a poetic streak and strung together in a rhythmic flow comprising of upbeat and milder tunes. There’s “Cancion Con Intencion”, a very popular lively song depicting the true intentions of a man. “Hoy” explores the comparisons of those who live in the regretful past and those who live for the present through a melancholic tune that transits into a trumpet-teasing, catchy melody. Slower songs like “Porque Te Amo” offers gratitude to the goodness of God, while the playful instrumental “Little Boy”, a nickname given to a stray kitten which played with the strings of Juan’s guitar, delights in the simple pleasures that this life can give.
Juan’s music passion has led him to live in Singapore for 4 years as a regular musician at Union Square. Of his experience in Singapore and its people, Juan commented: “They are very open, welcoming and willing to help you with whatever you need. I love the progress of the society and the government, both of which are very hardworking. I also love the feeling of security in the country.”
Before he finally parted with Singapore, his advice to those interested in the authentic South American experience here: “Get in touch with Latin people here. To eat in their homes is the best way to try authentic Latin cuisine although it can be difficult to replicate the flavours exactly because not all the Latin produce are available in Asia. To get the most real Latin experience, you must visit South America.”
As for his plan for the next five years? “I will soon start to focus on my next album which will be made together with my musical partner Lazaro Ernesto Numa Pompa in Australia where we are both going to be living in the future. I want to have my own music production company there and work with other artistes, helping them to develop their albums,” said Juan.
Juan Muñoz is indeed a rising star in the making not to be missed. His debut album Juan Muñoz can be purchased online through his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/juanmunozmusic
This article was published on Vida De Latinos’ online magazine, December 2012.
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