Colombian Juan Fernando Fonseca, who goes by his surname 'Fonseca', mixes vallenato and cumbia then adds a squeeze of Latin pop so creating a Colombian cocktail that’s been making a strong impression not just in his native land but also in the US’s burgeoning Latin music market. Cumbia is unofficially Colombia’s national music with its infectious rhythm and airy melody (and Cuban salsa influences) making it hugely popular as a dance form. Vallenato is an accordion-driven music that originated from Colombia’s Atlantic coast in the 19th Century. Popular legend has the music’s founder Francisco el Hombre being so good he outplayed the devil himself in an accordion duel. Today German made accordions destined for the Colombian market are specifically adjusted before export to provide the warm, reedy sound vallenato demands.
Both cumbia and vallenato music have grown from local to national (and later, to a degree, international) phenomenons. The first successful fusion of these two musical forms was by Carlos Vives, a singer and soap opera actor who is hugely popular in Colombia. Fonseca, born in 1980, is pushing forward what Vives achieved with his cumbia-vallenato fusion while establishing his own unique sound.
Fonseca has been singing since aged five and, when 12, he pressed 500 copies of a CD that featured a recording of him singing one of his own compositions and sold it to friends, family and neighbours. This pro-active start didn’t stop Fonseca from taking musical composition very seriously – he studied at Bogata University and Berkley College of Music in Boston. Returning to Colombia he issued his self-titled debut album in 2002. Local response to his positive lyrics and infectious rhythms was strong and Fonseca began to establish himself as one of Colombia’s new stars.
Fonseca worked for two years on his second album, 2006’s Corazon (Heart), which found him travelling to Valledupar to work with many of the finest vallenato musicians. Mixing in African drums and salsa flavours, Fonseca created on Corazon a unique, languid sound, one both relaxed and sensual. The success of Corazon found Fonseca nominated for three Latin Grammys.
Fonseca's website (in English and Spanish)
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