Vallenato isn’t the most popular Latinx subgenre. It’s not blaring in the clubs across the world. An American rapper isn’t tripping over his Air Jordans running to jump on a remix. Vallenato, a folk music native to Colombia’s Caribbean region, is a simple music consisting of mainly the following instruments: the caja vallenata, guacharaca and the accordion. Yet, it’s in that genre that legendary Colombian musician Carlos Vives established his decorated career.
“You talk about vallenato . . . vallenato opened the doors for us, it was something that surprised us and was pleasantly liked everywhere,” Vives tells TIDAL.
Vives 1993 hit “La Gota Fria” introduced non-Colombians to vallenato, but by the time “Fruta Fresca” launched 20 years ago today (August 23), he was on a grander stage — a bigger name to exalt his genre and his people.
“’Fruta Fresca’ is a fusion of Colombian and Puerto Rican sounds,” Vives says. “I wrote it at a time in my life where I lived between Puerto Rico and Colombia and I always visualized it as a song for my daughter, Lucia, who was just born. We were living in Mayaguez.”
In 1999, while some acts like Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony crossed over incredibly successfully, Vives went the opposite direction and focused on his core audience: Spanish-speaking lovers of vallenato. And it paid off. “Fruta Fresca” eventually hit no. 1 on Billboard’s Tropical chart and instantly became one of Vives’ trademark songs.
“We had revolutionized the music of our land and with it that of Latin America,” Vives says. “’Fruta Fresca’ is a song we cannot stop singing in our concerts and it is a sound that is still very valid.”