A few years before she was blonde, the brunette beauty of Colombian and Lebanese blend wrote and sang completely in her native tongue – Spanish. Her imagination and style were rooted in the mixture of Spanish worlds – both old and new hemispheres. This was years before her Pepsi commercial and introduction to the American mainstream wetting the appetite for an exotic voice and flavor. This was before she set up shop in Miami. My ears favor her original material coming straight out of Columbia; I understand the transformation, but I enjoy the birth and introduction.

Beyond her beauty of eyes, hair, and hips, Shakira is a true musical artist. With her pen she creates original and poetic lyrics, with her guitar she creates a rock goddess image, with her hips and more she creates a connection that captivates her audience. Pies Descalzos (“Bare Feet”) was the major record that reached across the Latin American world in 1996. My introduction to this record opened my eyes and ears to a style of music I had never known or had any interest in. The vague and misleading “Rock en Espanol” does not properly describe her music. However, she is much closer to Rock than say the more common Salsa or Meringue. This record opened a brilliant door to an expanded world view. Exposed, explored, and charmed during my more fluent Spanish-speaking experience, Pies Descalzos took me to another level.

This record contains various styles, tempos, and mixtures of music. It is the mixture of conquistadors and indigenous peoples that have created a new culture concurrent to the North American experience. Shakira’s blended heritage of Colombian and Lebanese blood is apparent in her style – more so in her sophomore follow up album, Donde Estan Los Ladrones and obviously in the exotic track Ojos Asi. But even in Pies Descalzos the listener can hear that there is something more than the Spanish surface.

Pies Descalzos never gets old; it is a short album of about 45 minutes. However, it is one of the few albums that lets you set it to repeat mode and you’ll only notice that you have looped it around the 4th time. For those interested in Spanish, Shakira sings in that “good” kind of Spanish; easy to understand and adds a sort of education layer to the listening experience. I think you will appreciate translating her lyrics to fully understand her message so bust out your Spanish-English dictionary from high school. Even without lyrical understanding, her music feels honest, original, and good.

For more flavor, add the lyrical layer and you will discover that Shakira sings of deep, meaningful love, interjects religious and intellectual references, along with a slice of social commentary. Her words are from someone much older and experienced than what you would expect from a cursory view of her.

For those who seek to look beyond the beauty, beyond the modern American mainstream, and even beyond a language barrier, put Shakira’s Pies Descalzos in your CD player and rock on. And for an extra treat, pick up the MTV’s Shakira Unplugged DVD. It contains material from Pies Descalzos and Donde Estan Los Ladrones coupled with the visual of her performance you will understand why she is so special. Also, she dropped a new record Fijacion Oral June 7 th, 2005.