A piece I wrote after meeting Colombian pop star Andrés Cepeda last year:
“PEOPLE in Bogotá want to have fun and people in Bogotá want to cry. I’m more the musician for when they want to cry,” multiple Grammy nominee and local boy Andrés Cepeda is quick to explain.
Hmmmm. If soppy songs really are the reason this singer has sold thousands of records and been nominated for the Grammy’s four times, then this is a Colombian responsible for a lot of streaked mascara.
“I’m just known for being a bit romantic,” the 37-year-old continues, shrugging and smiling widely as he runs his hands through his appropriately romantic dark tangle of hair.
“Someone has to sing the romantic songs.”
But has Bogota really produced Colombia’s King of Romance or is this just interview spiel? I had to test the theory so mentioned Cepeda’s name to a few Colombian friends.
Turns out our dear romantic is right.
“Andres Cepeda? He’s a really talented singer. But he always sings about love,” my dear friend Cesar sniffed, a little dismissively, when I explained who I had interviewed.
“Oh. My. God. I am so jealous. He’s my favourite singer ever,” giggled my friend Maria Alejandra, “Next time you meet him, I want in.”
Even so, being cast as Colombia’s chief romantic can be a burden when you’re in the mood to try something different, as Cepeda may soon discover.
His new album, Vivo en directo, is being released alongside a DVD showing it being recorded. The ‘computer tidying’ approach – where musicians record their parts separately before the track is created digitally – has been binned.
Instead the band performed each song together, three times at most, giving the album a raw, live feel.
Even Cepeda’s tried and tested sound has changed. Here he performs with the jazz drummer Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernandez and bassist José Armando Gola, both Cuban.
It was the chance he’d been longing for since meeting them at Bogotá’s Jazz al Parque three years ago.
“I’d become friends with these guys and I had these jazz songs I couldn’t use on my other albums, so I took advantage of their friendship and gave them a call,” Cepeda admits.
“They both live in New York but they love Colombia and they love Bogotá, so I think it was a good excuse for them to come back.”
He confides too that he is interested to know how people will react to his change in style.
“The sound might be different but the lyrics and the stories are the same,” he insists.
“The guys are Cuban and I had a lot of influence from Brazil but is it still very Colombian.
“People from Bogotá are supposed to be very polite, very passionate, a little sneaky and always the guys with the punch line, even if it’s a joke only we understand.
“I’m a Bogotáno and I think that comes through.”
But the new album wasn’t the only project keeping Cepeda busy last year. He wrote the official song, La Oportunidad, which fronted the nation’s fundraising Teletón. Some of the profits went to those affected by the country’s severe flooding.
“If you get the chance to help someone you should try to do it, because you never know the day when that help might be useful to you,” Cepeda sighs.
“Unfortunately we are beginning to pay the price for what we have done to the planet and it’s really, really sad. We have to do whatever it takes to help our people.
“As musicians, I think it’s the least we can do. We are very fortunate and we receive a lot. If someone thinks we can write a song and attract attention to the efforts of others, then we have to do it.”
Despite his showbiz successes, Cepeda still enjoys hanging out in his old haunts in Bogotá. He is friends with fellow musicians Fonseca and Santiago Cruz too – bonding over the trio’s shared background.
“I like my music and I like theirs. We criticise each other, but with love. Although, obviously, I think my music is better,” he grins.
“I have a lot of friends in Bogotá and there are a couple of neighbourhoods I love just to walk through. La Candelaria, for example, is beautiful.”
But despite his love for Bogotá, he can’t resist a dig at the damp and rainy city he calls home.
“There are a lot of places to visit in this city but I guess because I’m from here, I never think about it being a city for tourists,” he admits.
“It’s probably because of the rain. I mean, you would think people would choose to go on vacation somewhere with more sunshine.”