'Carlos Vives & Friends' Massive Concert Revives Colombian Pride

“The ones who love Colombia outnumber those who harm it,” Vives said to an audience of 40,000 in Bogota.

It’s taken Carlos Vives more than 20 years to win the heart of every Colombian. By now, most don't even remember when or how they learned his songs. They’re part of an identity discovered in the past decade, when Colombians began to feel openly proud of their music and art.

This pride was on massive display during his sold-out "Vives & Friends" show at Bogotá’s Campín Stadium on Thursday, with more than 40,000 people in attendance. Tickets were sold out weeks in advance and were being resold for five to six times the price -- an anomaly for a local act who performs home often.

But Vives has proven his immortality as an artist who doesn't expire, and his amazing persistence has carved the way for new Colombian talents, whom he leads with great generosity. This is an artist who believes in his land and in his people, and on Thursday, he brought many of them to share the stage with him.

Newcomer Maluma was on after two songs, capturing every girls’ heart. Then came Choc Quib Town, the urban/folk trio from a forgotten land—Chocó—who got people up on their feet to dance, and tropical pop act Gusi, another young heartthrob. One of the greatest surprises of the show was Brazilian Michel Teló. He pleasantly surprised fans with his Portuguese version of "Amor de mi Tierra,” and won everyone over when he saw Vives’ legendary accordionist Egidio Cuadrado, and dropped his own accordion in a gesture of humility and admiration.

And then, there was a good dose of reggaeton with Wisin and Daddy Yankee, who sang together before joining Vives on “Nota de Amor.”

But without a doubt, the most powerful part of the concert (and the most anticipated one) was when Colombian acts Fanny Lu, Fonseca, Choc Quib Town, Cholo Valderrama, Maluma, Coral Group and Herencia de Timbiquí joined Vives onstage to sing the new version of his classic "La Tierra del Olvido," whose music video—featuring all those acts-- was released last week.

Accompanied by fireworks surrounding the stadium, it seemed as if the entire audience sang this Colombian anthem together with all their strength.

In a country were stereotypes revolve around drugs and war, Vives has managed to unite his people with the conviction that, in his own words, “the ones who love Colombia outnumber the ones who harm it.”

And while Vives was originally a vallenato act, he now combines his music not only with pop and rock but also with reggaeton and salsa, merging Colombian roots with modern global musical trends.

That’s because he comes from a diverse country that has evolved with its music, creating a new identity to pass along to generations.

And, for one night, at least, it was possible to completely erase the country's negative image and replace it with color, dance moves, soccer balls, happy faces and music.

Billboard | By María José Andrade

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