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Shakira: 1977—: Singer, Songwriter Biography

Found Fame At An Early Age, Achieved International Superstardom, Remained Committed To Her Roots

Shakira: 1977—: Singer, songwriter.

By the time Shakira released her first English language album, 2001's Laundry Service, she had long been an international star in the Spanish speaking world. With four records—the first recorded when she was just thirteen—the petite Colombian singer-songwriter was already established as an authentic rockera with a unique sound that hinged on a fusion of her Latin American and Middle Eastern roots and a childhood obsession with rock music. She had done this in culture where machismo ruled. "In Latin cultures historically, though not always, females are interpreters,"Jose Tillan, vice president of music and talent at MTV Latin America, told Time. "For the most part, they don't make records. Shakira isn't like that. From the very beginning she has been involved with the songs and the recording." Could she maintain her success and individuality with a new record, in a new language? The numbers seem to say yes. Laundry Service sold 200,000 copies in its debut week. Suddenly a phenomenon in the United States, everybody wanted to know, who is Shakira? She answered the question in an radio interview quoted in the Los Angeles Times, "I think my music says it all."

Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll was born on February 2, 1977 in the small town of Barranquilla on the coast of Columbia. Her father, William Mebarak Chadid was Lebanese and her mother, Nidia del Carmen Ripoll Torrado was Columbian with Italian roots. They worked as jewelers and provided Shakira and her seven older brothers and sisters with a decidedly middle class upbringing. Her father, who was also a writer, freely shared his love of Arabic music and culture with his children. In fact Shakira is an Arabic word meaning "woman full of grace." At age four Shakira was already belly dancing much to the delight of her father. Her mother, with a penchant for the practical, taught Shakira to read and write by the age of three. From her parents, whom she proudly proclaims as her heroes, Shakira inherited the trait that would propel her to stardom—the creativity and intelligence to weave her cultures into music for the masses.

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