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Maluma: Music Is My Life

Born Juan Luis Londoño Arias, MALUMA is an urban pop musician from Medellin, Colombia who has made Latin Billboard Chart history by becoming the first and youngest artist to ever reach 1st and 2nd place simultaneously.

MALUMA first broke into the music scene with “La Temperatura.” His hits include “Pasarla Bien,” “Miss Independent,” and “Obsesion” and he has been honored with an MTV Millennial Award and Latin Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.

Miami Living Magazine sat down with MALUMA for an exclusive interview in which he shared his thoughts on his career, ambitions, inspirations, and his Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy tour in the United States.

Javier Delgado: Tell us about how you broke into music. I understand that you also had a big interest in playing soccer.

MALUMA: “I was just 16-years-old when I first got into a recording studio, thanks to my family. It was a present my uncles gave me. I was longing to record my own music. I started composing since I was very little but I never had the opportunity until I got to a recording studio. Being in a studio was like love at first sight, get it? From that very first day, I knew I wanted to do music and nothing else. I decided to leave soccer at the age of 16 and now that I just turned 23, I realize that it’s been a difficult, but beautiful road. Like everything in life, it requires a bit of sacrifice but at the same time I recognize that I’ve been blessed because of so many positive things that have happened in my life and my career. So it was a good decision to leave soccer and start up my music career.”

But you were pretty good at soccer, right?

MALUMA: “Yes, I played for different major Colombian teams like the Atletico Nacional until the age of 14 and then I moved to another team called La Equidad, where I played for two more years. Even though I loved soccer I realized that it was better as a hobby.”

How would you describe your music style?

MALUMA: “Urban. I have the opportunity to incorporate different things. Urban music has many ramifications. I love urban-pop, reggaetón, dansol, reggae, among others. They all branch out from urban music. Thank God I have the ability to rap and at the same time to create melodies. That’s why I love to venture into different rhythms.”

So, your music is not just reggaetón –it’s much broader?

MALUMA: “Yes, I also love to sing ballads, which is something people find hard to believe as they defined me as a reggaetoner, but I’m not only that, I think I have my own personal style that I’ve been developing and molding since early in my career. Bear in mind that I have nothing against reggaetoners, I’m a huge fan of them, but beyond that I have the tendency to explore a wider range of genres and love having a taste of most of them.”

What is your source of inspiration when creating music? Tell us about your creative process.

MALUMA: “Women are very important in my life. I was raised by women, my mother and my sister, [who is] older than me. They were the very first source of inspiration --my family. Then I also started to pay attention to the stories of my friends, stories that surrounded me. My friends would tell me what happened to them. Later, I started to pay attention to stories of others alien to me.”

You’ve been successful in incorporating these stories into your music. In fact, you recently made some remarkable historical achievements by becoming the youngest artist to ever hold 1st and 2nd place simultaneously on the Latin Billboard Chart. How does this success make you feel?

MALUMA: “It is a great motivation, but it is never enough. I’m very young, only 23-years-old, so this is just the beginning of my career. Obviously, this is great news, making history in the charts and my career. It motivates me to work harder every day. I’m not a conformist and I believe there are greater things yet to come as a result of the effort, dedication, and sacrifice I put into it. Music is my life.”

Besides working on your music, you also invest time in connecting with your fan base via social media. This has made you one of the most popular artists in the world and some of your videos have received more than 2 billion views this year alone! What is MALUMA’s secret?

MALUMA: “Being me. Being real. At times, people ask if I manage my social media, and I’m not going to lie. Yes, I do! It would be very difficult to convey through others what is it you want to transmit to your fans. I do not want anyone but me to manage my social media. I need to have that communication channel. Thanks to social media I’m able to grasp and understand what music my fans like. It is the bridge that connects us, and that’s probably why I have so many followers. They connect with me because I’m real.”

How does that bridge work when performing a concert?

MALUMA: “This is the favorite part of my career. If it was up to me, I would always be on stage, because the feeling of adrenaline never goes away. This is probably why so many artists continue to perform live concerts after a long career, because it keeps you alive. Beyond money and fame, this is an artist’s favorite part. The bridge is quite interesting: seeing your fans crying, singing along, and looking at you as their idol. It provides the fuel of inspiration and motivation to keep moving forward.”

And who fueled your own inspiration? Are there any artists that you admire and look to for motivation?

MALUMA: “Um, there’s many. One of them is Ricky Martin, I believe he raised the bar and brought Latin music to a higher level. His musical genres, as we know, he’s brought diversity and he’s done it brilliantly. He’s gone through ballads, then urban music and collaborates and works with other artists. Marc Anthony is a great idol and a personal friend. He has given me great advice. Also, Wisin and Yandel, Enrique Iglesias. There are many I admire that have been in the music industry for many years, and that is key. It is not about reaching the peak; it’s about keeping yourself there. They are role models to me.”

Talking about Ricky Martin, is it true you’ll be starring in a musical about his life?

MALUMA: “No, not at all. Just recently I received social media messages on Twitter and other channels asking if I was going to make a TV series or a movie, I don’t remember exactly. Until then I hadn’t even known about such a thing, I had no idea. This is false; I think this is just gossip and speculation. Trust me, I’m the official and direct source and no one has called me with that proposition.”

Let’s talk about a controversial issue. How do you defend the song “Cuatro Babys” which has been censored by many alleging that the lyrics are machista and denigrate women?

MALUMA: “Well, this is a pretty broad issue and at the same time it is a simple one. I sing to interpret songs. And because I sing this type of songs doesn’t mean that I’m in love with four babies, right? It is easy to point fingers, judge and accuse someone without having a clue what’s going on with the artist. I’m not the only one who sings, there are three other artists, but according to many people I’m the one singing all the naughty words, and this is not true. I sing the intro and the chorus and I have a small part at the end of the song, which is not naughty at all. No one else was been aimed at but me. I really do not care.

I think it is a great song in the trap genre, a trend that is coming pretty strong. I launched it for the underground world, but the media took the song to a different level and made it a number one hit just recently in different countries.

As there are people against it, there are probably more people that like it and therefore it became quite controversial. Obviously, the people affected by this controversy are my family, who always are there to support me. As I said previously, there’s nothing more beautiful and special than women. Then again, I’m a story teller and for that I’ve been pointed at and called names, but those who know me well recognize what kind of person I am. ‘Cuatro Babys’ is without a doubt the most successful hit I have in my repertoire further more than ‘Chantaje’ or ‘Vente Pa’Ca.’”

Of all your hits, which one is your favorite?

MALUMA: “Wow, this is a difficult one. In my concert shows I have many new, good songs that I started incorporating all of a sudden. As I said before, ‘Vente Pa’Ca’ and ‘Chantaje’ are top. I think ‘Chantaje’ with Shakira is the one I love the most for the time being.”

You mentioned Shakira, how was your experience while recording “Chantaje”? And would you classify it in the salsa music genre?

MALUMA: “It was incredible. Shakira and I have a special feeling and love for salsa. We shared this love to the point that while being in Barcelona recording the video, we taped scenes dancing salsa. They were not part of the original version and this is precisely why we decided to record ‘Chantaje’ and give it a salsa twist flavor.”

Salsa is a Latin music genre, but in Columbia there are also vallenato and cumbia genres. Which one is your favorite?

MALUMA: “I like vallenato better. But I have to confess that they are not my preference. I grew up listening to other types of music. The Colombian folklore has been there for a long time and it is not going to die. Nevertheless, there are vallenatos that I love like Diomedes Diaz, his songs will remain forever in time.”

You’ve worked with Shakira and Thalia, who will your next music collaboration be with?

MALUMA: “There are several artists that I’m very fond of, but I’d like to pursue the Anglo world. I’ve had the opportunity to work with great stars that are still on my radar, but I’d like to work with American artists, hopefully they’ll be women. I don’t know, maybe Ariana Grande or Selena Gomez. I think it would be a great step for my career and a dream come true.”

You are about to start your Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy tour in the United States. What will you bring to your fans?

MALUMA: “The most important thing is to bring a great show; this is the main reason we’ve prepared for this tour. There will be more than 14 performances where my team and I will be on the road. We worked very hard during our tour in Latin America and Europe. We are thrilled that for the first time we’ll be performing on a tour in America. I’ve received many messages through social media from fans that are very excited and can’t wait to see us perform. I believe that they paid to see a great show and this is what we came to do.”

What connects you to the great city of Miami?

MALUMA: “Its Latin flavor, it’s the truth. I cannot deny that I’m in love with my Hispanic culture, not only Colombians but my Venezuelan friends, Dominicans, Mexicans --the Latin flavor that runs through our veins. Every time I come to Miami, I simply connect with the extraordinary cultural diversity this city offers.”

Interview by Javier Delgado, Written by Adriana Garuolis, Images, Nieman Group

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