Shakira Interview - Elenco Magazine - El Tiempo Newspaper
What is left from the little girl that used to compose at 4 years old?
Many things. I'm a 31 year old woman who doesn't miss a single Harry Potter movie. And for every Harry Potter book I try to compensate and read a book about the French Kings. I have built a solid bridge to the fantasy world and my childhood memories. A bridge like the one from Terabithia that I cross whenever I can from my adult life to that world. And there I dream of the possibility of having gnomes in the garden of my house in the Bahamas. Sometimes I look at the grass and fantasize about that possibility. Sometimes I feel like an 8 year old girl, but with the responsibilities of a 31 year old woman.
What comes to your mind when you think about the time your parents took you to the Suri Salcedo Park in Barranquilla?
The day that I learned about the financial crisis. My father and mother had lost their business. I was about 7 or 8 and very frustrated, because I understood that my life wasn't going to be the same again. So they took me to the park to show me a reality that was even harder than mine. And it made an impact on me to see kids sniffing glue to forget the hunger, orphans, abandoned. It was so bad that I became obsessed with the idea of doing something, one day, for those kids. That's why, when I decided to create Pies Descalzos, the main was cause always the unprotected youth. And when the years passed and the number of displaced children was growing, I called Maria Emma Mejía and decided to increase the support that was given to the children with what I earn from my own presentations. And she has done a perfect job that makes me love and admire her. To me it's very important to know what is happening with every one of those children; because I know them, I know their names and their stories. They have become something essential in my life, something addictive almost. That's why I recommend everyone who is able, within their own means, to help a child.
What phrases, what looks do you remember from those children?
There are so many stories that have made me cry with happiness... Like the one about Angel, a boy that worked at the market in Bogotá, carrying large package. When we met his father we offered that he would be sent to one of our schools where he would receive food. Because the foundation doesn't only build schools and offer education, it also offers psychological support and above all nourishment. A child can't learn on an empty stomach. And when you offer the child a meal, their parents will be encouraged to send them to school instead of to work. That boy no longer works today, he studies and he's doing very well. When we started to work in Chocó, the children never even tasted meat before. Today we don't have a single malnutritioned child in our schools. Some were already in such a bad state of malnutrition that it has damaged them, like Wilson, who will not grow anymore, or Forley, who is in a wheelchair but who has greatly improved, he's in fourth grade and leader of his class.
And the star student?
Hector Horacio, who was number 14 in the ICFES [academic placement] exams and now he's studying biology in collegeuniversity. The best thing is that this child, who came from a dramatic past and extreme poverty, is studying to be a professional and return to the schools to help and give back a little from what he received. When we offer an opportunity to a child we are breaking the vicious circle of poverty; but we are also giving it the tools for a more inspired community. Inspiration is contagious.
That's only one part of your social work, the other is ALAS and its concerts. What we achieved with those concerts is that 400 thousand people showed up. That more than 30 artists came together for the same cause, we united our voices and used them in favor of people who can't use their own. To make the people aware and to inform them about the importance of investing in the most vulnerable children, from the earliest state of childhood, from the womb, something that today is called early child development. In Latin America neither the governments nor the private sector is investing in children from 0 to 5 years old, who are in the crucial part of their life, where their brain is being formed. If we don't nourish them, if we don't stimulate them enough, they will have limitations in learning and later limitations in having dignified jobs. What's next is to organize the investments that various businessmen committed themselves to. The idea is to announce an even bigger commitment on behalf of the governments before the end of the year. Now the governments have to do their part, to increase their investments in development and stimulation. I'm a little afraid because I know that there are a lot of expectations and we're not a political organization, we are united artists, mobilizing society.
How much money did you raise?
It's important to make clear that the collected funds are not handled by ALAS. We are only the instrument. Those 200 million dollars promised by businesspeople will be invested in a series of already existing foundations.
Don't you feel kind of like a mother to all of those children?
Yes, I do. I feel like I have 5,000 adopted children. And in 2009 I'll have 6500, when the school in Barranquilla is finished. It's an opportunity life has given me and I'm grateful because it makes me very happy; few things could equal that.
Is it the same as being on stage or better?
Ha ha... They are 2 different things. I am lucky to be earning my living with what I sing, what I think and what I believe. It's very emotional to be on a stage and connect with so many people and know that millions and millions identify with a feeling that's very personal, that I have expressed in a song. During the Oral Fixation Tour one of the most emotional moments has always been when the clarinet plays and I say, "En Barranquilla se baila así," and everybody repeats it, whether they are Germans or Swiss, Arabic or Americans. And when I meet those children and see their progressions and see how the chance to study and be fed is changing their lives, I think that tomorrow they will be productive members of society and they will make their dreams come true like I did mine... that is a great joy!
Could it also be preparation for being a biological mother?
Ha ha... I don't know. Maternity appears to be very latent for me. It's not a coincidence that I appeared with a baby on both covers of [my CDs] Oral Fixation Volume 1 and 2. Ha ha... I call that a subconscious goal. Clearly, there is a voice inside of me that says, "Do it now! Have a child!" And it's something that I believe could happen very soon. But now my most important concern are those 5,000 children and to continue with this pregnancy that is the next album. Although it doesn't have an ultrasound yet, let's hope that it's a healthy fetus. Let's hope that it will have 10 fingers and 10 toes.
In order to have that child, is it necessary to marry?
I don't think so... (She thinks and laughs)... I don't think so. There is something about marriage that scares me and I will confess to you: Antonio and I have been engaged for a long time (8 years). But marriage scares me because to me it seems more romantic to be the eternal girlfriend, so the man has to keep working and doesn't rest on his laurels. There's something about living as a couple and not getting married that causes desire to grow. Why mend what hasn't broken. Why would we deal with that?
But the whole world insists on you two getting married...
They've married me, they've divorced me... But there haven't been any plans for a wedding at any time. Only the engagement and the ring he gave me when he proposed. We haven't sat down to make the list of people to invite because it's something that I try to convince him of. He does want to get married. Just two weeks ago he said, "Let's get married!" Ha ha... But at the same time he understands my position.
And does not getting married have nothing to do with the moment in your career?
Honestly, I'll tell you like this, because I have to, because I'm being asked this so many times, the truth is that I'm scared of creating a false security, of resting on our laurels. It seems more romantic to me to be his eternal girlfriend and to have his children and form a family with him.
It would be terrible to organize the wedding...
Yes, forget about it! And how are we going to keep the cameras away? Because I don't want to be on any cover in my wedding dress. That's reason number one why I don't get married.
How do you see life as a couple?
I want to say that I'm not traditional anymore, nor do I have a classic version of life as a couple. I see it differently. I don't think that the institution of marriage has always existed in society, but that it has been invented long after. And it's part of the society in which we live.
What's the relationship like?
Amazing, very deep, we are very united. The truth is that I wouldn't want to ruin it with marriage.
Have the rumors put the relationship in danger at any moment?
No, not at all.
What is the basis of trust that keeps pictures like the ones that circulated from provoking a crisis?
On the contrary, with things like that, we come closer together because... Well first of all, what we have is not a prison, it's a relationship. I firmly believe in individual freedom. And our relationship is based on freedom and trust, on mutual faithfulness and the love we feel for each other and that has kept us together until now in spite of everything. Desire cannot grow if there is no freedom. To me freedom and trust are the ingredients of desire. Of course the press can always take anything out of context. Antonio was at a birthday party, many people come up to him, after all he is handsome... Ha ha, to me he is handsome... he's an attractive man. Of course the women come up to him and he has to attend to them. Similar to how many men and women come up to me all the time. And I'm affectionate in the way I treat people.
You once said that unfaithfulness would be the reason for a breakup.
I don't believe that one can be so radical. Today I think that it would be a very hurtful situation. I don't imagine myself in that situation with Antonio; in 8 years he hasn't given me any reason. I don't know how I would react. It seems ridiculous to me that it would be a reason to break up; one doesn't know if the love for that person is bigger than your pride. Who knows the circumstances of every relationship, maybe there are things missing. Infidelity isn't a criminal act, I don't believe anyone should be punished for being unfaithful; but I do think it harms the relationship and it's difficult to fix. There are couples who can do it and others that can't, but until now it hasn't happened to us.
Aside from loving you, what does Antonio do?
I'm very open to the press and I always have been. Antonio isn't interested in explaining himself, he feels he isn't a pop star and doesn't have to sell CD's. He's always been very reserved and doesn't promote himself. He and I live together in the Bahamas but he spends a lot of time working in New York. He has his base there. He has his own projects apart from what we do together. Six years ago he decided to take care of all my artistic affairs. We make all the decisions together, he's my main support and he takes care of my contracts. Since he took over, my career has gone nowhere but up. He has done a great job as my partner, taking care of me, protecting me. There's another side which is his business. He has his business partner in New York and he works with an investment fund. They are working at a project, an island in the Bahamas, it's his business which I know of course, but I don't get involved in what he does day to day. This year he was executive producer of the ALAS concerts, he was one of the most driving forces and you can ask that to Alejandro Santodomingo, Carlos Slim and Alejandro Sanz. The concerts wouldn't have taken place without Antonio behind them, insisting; because it isn't easy to get 30 artists to agree on one date, so many businesspeople, the government of a city to give permission to have the concert.
When you are away and you hear Antonio's voice on the phone, what happens to your body?
Ah! Ha ha... I say, "What a voice, what a macho!" Because he also has an imposing voice and when I hear him from a distance I say: "Here comes Antonio."
What do you miss most when you are not with him?
His chest, where I lay my head and find peace. He gives me a kind of peace and serenity that I have learned through him, because he calms down the most tormenting moments, calms down the storm.
Don't you think the decision not to go to Cúcuta, to the concert on of the border, was taken too lightly?
The truth is they let me know on very short notice and it wasn't possible to move the commitments I had already made. I tried up until the last moment. For example, Juanes couldn't attend the ALAS concert because something unexpected came up, that's normal. This happens to artists, we can't be everywhere, at least not until they invent cloning! Ha ha ha... After all, the relations between Chávez and Uribe had already normalized. It wasn't urgent for me to be there and the concert had taken on another meaning, it was to celebrate the re establishment of the diplomatic relations. But it was a great gesture; I would have liked to have been there with my colleagues and with Juanes. I do believe that it would be urgent and important to do a concert for our own peace, the internal peace of Colombia, for all those people who are in captivity and suffer the lack of freedom. I would like that and I dream of a mobilization of artists for peace.
Would you support it?
Of course, it's something urgent; in that case I would even cancel a meeting with the Pope! I would do anything possible to have that definite peace, from my humble place as an artist, but with passion and conviction.
And is it possible to obtain peace in Colombia, with a conflict that has lasted over 50 years?
Yes, I believe it is and there is not only one way to obtain peace. I believe that we have to reach an agreement and intensely wish for it. But more than that romantic vision, we have to sow the seeds of tomorrow. Education is a very powerful tool in the strategy for peace. We know that a person with few options to study and nourish himself, who has no opportunities in life, is more likely to join an armed group, to end in dark business, in crime
What does the liberation of Ingrid Betancourt and the other 14 hostages, mean for Colombia, its situation and its future?
The opportunity to dream again of stable and definite peace and the strength not to give up until the hostages are freed.
What words come to your mind when you hear Ingrid's name?
Admiration, dignity, intelligence, sensibility, pride...
Has the situation changed in any way during the last years?
I think we have come much closer to peace. Colombia today is seen by the world as an attractive country for foreign investment, every time there are more people visiting us, who feel secure in the country. The president has made a very good gesture, he has generated faith in the Colombians.
What makes you notice that?
Eight or nine years ago, when I started to expand to the English market, they made a lot of jokes in the first interviews; there was sarcasm when they learned I was Colombian. "You are the second export after cocaine." They would ask me, "What did you bring me?" Colombia wasn't associated with anything positive. That has changed. Today the foreign press talk to me about the beauty of the Colombian women, others talk about cities like Cartagena, about the kindness of the Colombians, of the joy of our people, the culture, the language, the music... I'm very optimistic when I see my country and I feel that if we make an effort together, we could get close to a permanent peace.
What are our challenges?
Many. 3 million of displaced people because of the violence, who we can't forget, 2 and a half million children that don't go to school. Invest in the people, in this society that needs a chance, that has been beaten from the colonial time, because being a colony has cost us very much, it meant that we had to conform to a reality that we have inherited, with an oligarchy class that has led the country for so many years. The generation of today wishes to leave behind the invisibility, to transform our reality.
When you look in the mirror and see that your big dream has become a reality, what do you think?
Uff! I have to keep myself there, creatively. I tend to forget that I'm a celebrity. Most of the day I don't think about it, unless there's a camera flash or someone asking me for an autograph. I feel like a craftswoman of what I do, like a secretary that wants to write her best letter or a chef that wants to prepare his best dish. That is how I constructed a career of 18 years, brick by brick, with sweat, with great effort and beneath the sun. This allows me to look back and enjoy the successes I have achieved; but there is more...
I still dream of that song I didn't write yet, when will that song come? The perfect song... Where is it? It has to be somewhere inside of me. And I'm looking for it now.
What is that song like?
Few have been able to do it: Bob Marley, John Lennon. They are songs that don't need any changes at all, they remain for a 100 years. Mozart, Beethoven, Bach have done it.
Which songs are perfect?
"Imagine" by John Lennon, "No Woman No Cry" by [Bob] Marley.
Today you know so many people you admired when you were a child
Well, at 8 years old I was in love with Miguel Bosé Ha ha... and sometimes I can't believe that instead of dreaming of him we now dream together, of projects like ALAS. This is when you realize that life is an association of paradoxes and surprises, and of small miracles. For example when I worked with Beyoncé, I was very nervous. She was the one who called me, asking me to sing with her, to dance, to be in the video. She is a complete queen to me in what she does and I didn't want to betray her. But the best thing about working together with an artist is what you learn. I learned many things from her, from Alejandro [Sanz], from [Gustavo] Cerati.
And the new CD?
Hmm, the inspiration! We will have it halfway through next year. Because I always take time when writing. I already wrote like 30 songs, but I'm still searching for a few more.
What are you doing?
I travel to London to meet up with a few producers; but I am in charge of the general production. There's a lot of work, like taking care of myself, continuing to write, looking for an even better sound than on the previous album...The challenge is to improve myself.
And the topics?
Ha ha... Those coherent of a 31 year old woman. I will not talk about things concerning small children; I talk about things that are inside of me today, that live inside my body and my senses.
Ha ha ha, I don't know, it's still a bit premature to talk about that.