Colombia is the unquestioned leader of South American music on the global stage. Thanks in part to international stars like Juanes and Shakira, the Andean nation has dominated the Latin charts and revolutionized each genre they’ve touched.
Listo, pues! Click on to see (and hear) the best Colombian musicians in the world.
Signature Song: “La Camisa Negra”
Juan Esteban is the most influential pop rock artist of his time. He’s been able to mix various genres including traditional Colombian sounds while always injecting his music with sociopolitical themes. He’s an artist, a philanthropist and a proponent of peace in the world. He’s Juanes.
Signature Song: “Hips Don’t Lie”
Shakira is the biggest musician to ever come out of the Andean nation. While early in her career she was pegged as a Latin version of Alanis Morissette, she eventually carved out her own distinct sound and vision. Once her 2001 crossover was complete everyone was trying to shake their hips like Shak or mesmerized by her movement.
3. J Balvin
Signature Song: “Ay Vamos”
Mr. Reggaeton Renaissance, J Balvin, took a dormant genre and infused it with originality. Taking a page from Drake’s handbook, the Colombian artist took the Panamanian/Puerto Rican-created music and added his culture and took over the charts, the hearts of fans worldwide and YouTube views.
Signature Song: “Arroyito”
Fonseca hasn’t reached the heights of Colombian luminaries like Juanes and Shakira, but he’s managed to make his mark in the Latin market. His second album, Corazon, meshed pop/rock with his country’s sounds of vallenato, bullerengue, among others.
5. Carlos Vives
Signature Song: “Fruta Fresca”
Carlos Vives is more Colombian than Sofia Vergara eating una bandeja paisa while reading a Gabriel Garcia Marquez classic. The curly-haired vallenato singer made folk music cool by mixing traditional instruments like zampoña with modern day ones. His biggest hits (“La Gota Fria,” “Fruta Fresca”) hark back to the days of the Incas and Chibchas.
6. Joe Arroyo
Signature Song: “La Noche”
The Cartagena product became the voice of Afro-Latinos with the classic, “La Rebelion,” a tale of slavery and love in Latin America. Arroyo was also one of the leading singers of Colombia’s salsa movement, which picked up where the Nuyoricans left off in the ‘70s.
7. Grupo Niche
Signature Song: “Busca Por Dentro”
Co-founded by Jairo Varela and Alexis Lozano, Grupo Niche were one of the leaders of Colombia’s salsa movement in the 1980s. The following decade their songs became more romance-influenced than sociopolitical. Still, they’re revered as Colombia’s answer to Puerto Rico’s El Gran Combo.
8. Lisandro Meza
Signature Song: “La Cumbia del Amor”
The cumbia king! Meza revolutionized the Colombian-born genre by introducing Dominican merengue, Louisiana zydeco, and Tex-Mex norteno, according to AllMusic.com. And he made the accordion funky AF.
9. Fruko y sus Tesos
Fruko y sus Tesos
Signature Song: “El Preso”
Influenced by salsa greats, Willie Colon, Ray Barretto and others, Julio Ernesto “Fruko” Estrada founded Fruko y sus Tesos in 1969. Largely regarded as the godfather of Colombian salsa, Fruko gave Joe Arroyo his start. He even re-formed and directed the influential cumbia collective, La Sonora Dinamita. #BOSS
10. Charlie Zaa
Signature Song: “Rondanda Tu Esquina/Nuestro Juramento”
Zaa took bolero standards and introduced them to a whole new generation. By covering classics by Ecuadorian legends Olimpo Cardenas and Julio Jaramillo, Zaa took the Latin charts by storm.