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Chayanne

The Latin pop music explosion of 1999 has generated a new excitement in the music industry, and the big winner for the year 2000 may just be another singing and dancing star from Puerto Rico, Chayanne. A breathtaking performer who often uses three helicopters to enter and exit his arena shows in Puerto Rico and Latin America, Chayanne is a cauldron of talent waiting to burst. With more than 49 gold and platinum albums awards to his credit since his solo debut in 1986, Chayanne, who made his major motion picture debut, Dance With Me with Vanessa Williams in 1998, is poised to become the newest Latin crossover success story.

Famous for his world tours choreographed by the likes of Kenny Ortega (Michael Jackson, Cher) and Vince Paterson (Madonna, Michael Jackson), Chayanne's blow-up seems to be inevitable not only because of his proven market prowess, enormous talent and showmanship, but also because of his boundless energy and dedication. Peter Watrous of The New York Times wrote about a sold-out New York show: "Chayanne and his six dancers put on a spectacular show of smoke machines and laser light, reproducing the choreography of a video and its visual stimulation as well...inciting pandemonium."

Chayanne is in demand all over the world in places as far aflung as Turkey, Australia, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg etc. In all Latin America, he fills soccer stadiums. In the U.S., his shows are consistent sell-outs at venues such as New York's Radio City Music Hall; Chicago's Chicago Theatre, L.A.'s Universal Amphitheater, the Dallas Star Plex and more. He has given more than 300 electrifying performances, each with an average audience of 50,000 fans. You do the math. Whoever called James Brown the Hardest Working Man in Show Business might be rethinking that observation if he'd encountered Chayanne.
"I'm always focused on my job, I'm at it 24 hours a day," said Chayanne in a recent interview from his Miami office. "I do it to grow, I do it with enthusiasm. I do it because I love it. And I think if you love your job and you do it with enthusiasm that's where people believe it or don't believe it. If people see you're fake, you're not going to last long."The good news, as many American listeners already know, is that Chayanne's authenticity isn't limited to his native tongue. While he has traditionally sung most of his songs in Spanish, he has been continuously adding to his English repertoire, without, as Watrous puts it, "the self-consciousness of a crossover attempt." As for the question of why the world is suddenly looking to Latin pop now, Chayanne can only shrug his shoulders and speculate. "There is a Latin wave, but it exists because there's a quality in the music, because when you see one of us on the stage you see something that has been crafted-it's not something we're trying out for the first time. And there is a lot of sensuality without being vulgar, which is what I like."

There's no doubt that Chayanne has withstood the test of time-he began his career at age 10 when he left his native town of San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico to form the teen group Los Chicos. While the group had considerable success in Central America and the Caribbean, Chayanne never forgot his roots. "My childhood was about family, traditions, ones I've grown more and more attached to," said singer who was named one of People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People of the World in 1993.

It's been a long, rewarding road for the personality who made history by appearing in the first Spanish-language commercial on American network television for Pepsi in 1989. When he turned 17, Chayanne moved to Mexico to begin a solo career that has produced nine albums, five major roles in successful soap operas, and numerous videos and commercials. He has since gone on to place 13 top 10 hits on the Latin Billboard charts, and he also proved himself as an acting presence. His most recent soap opera, Volver a Empezar (To Begin Again) spent much time as the top TV show in Mexico and U.S. Hispanic communities with ratings of 33 and a 50 per cent market share. He has also starred in Linda Sara, (Beautiful Sara) directed by the Oscar-nominated director Jacobo Morales, and his leading role in Dance With Me was met with widespread critical acclaim.

"Dance With Me was a wonderful, unique experience. It was my first experience with the American market, at the level of acting," said Chayanne. "I learned how incredible the body is, to be able to leave your body and put another spirit in yours. When you begin to act and talk like that person on your free time and you're completely immersed in the character, it's marvelous, it's fascinating, and I love it."

But as much as he feels the pull of the acting bug, and has received offers from Broadway producers like Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk's George C. Wolfe, and TV shows like Ally McBeal, Chayanne has decided to concentrate all of his energies for this time being on his music. And it's no wonder-the combination of danceable tropical pop and ballad on his most recent album, Atado a tu Amor, (Hooked on Your Love) garnered sales of more than 2.5 million units worldwide so far - it continues to sale week after week, in country after country. Languid, seductive ballads like the title track and "Dejaria Todo" (I Would Give Up Everything) meld seamlessly the frenetic tropical rhythms of "Salome," and Brazilian favorite Carlinhos Brown's "Enamorado." (In Love) An entrancing duet with Vanessa Williams "Refugio de amor" (You Are My Home) is culled from the soundtrack of Dance With Me.

Whatever the future holds for Chayanne, he knows that it will flow from the way he lives his life--strictly from the heart.

Chayanne, has devoted much of his time in humanitarian work for the United Nations Immigrant Foundation and its World Refugee Organization and the Starlight Foundation for terminally ill children, a quality he attributes to his strong family upbringing. "It's that love that you get from your family, and having to sacrifice that while being away working," said Chayanne. "But later you are repaid by the support of those people at my shows, the smile of a young girl, when I sing that song in a stadium and everyone has lit a candle or a lighter and is singing that same song, or on their feet applauding you so that your heart breaks from emotion."

Chayanne undergoes a lengthy process to put together each album. "I have a team of people that help me do the job, although I have the last word," said Chayanne. "I listen to all the songs and open up all the possibilities. Then we decide all the songs that are going to be on the disc. We choose a concept, if it's going to be more romantic or pop, pop Caribeсo, which is my style, and I have to feel it." In the year 2000, Chayanne will embark on the task of putting together his eagerly awaited follow-up to Atado a Tu Amor, which will feature a number of English-language tunes.

 

suzette@hush.com