Headlines, Latin America & the Caribbean

/ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT/MUSIC-LATAM: Natalia Oreiro Follows Her Own Path

Marcela Valente

BUENOS AIRES, Jul 31 2001 (IPS) - She is Uruguayan, 24, has sold two million albums and has become a pop music star in Greece, Hungary, Israel, Poland, Russia, Rumania and Turkey. The US filmmaker Quentin Tarantino has reportedly offered her work. But Natalia Oreiro is not interested in singing in English.

Oreiro did not pass through the proving grounds of the US city of Miami like many famous Latin American singers have done. “Mine is a special case,” says the nominee for a Latin Grammy award from the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for her album “Tu veneno” (Your Venom).

Colombia’s Shakira – who at 26 has sold 3.5 million albums – is studying English with great earnest, reads the late US poet Walt Whitman and writes songs in the language of William Shakespeare. Oreiro has chosen to reach the heights of fame by a different route – and so far it has served her well.

In the past few years, many of Latin America’s popular artists, especially musicians, have tried to create a space for themselves in the United States market, adapting their personal styles to be something more “global.”

But such transformations are not always easy. Shakira, born in Barranquilla, said that in addition to singing in English to conquer the US markets, she tries to do so without a trace of her native Spanish accent. “I don’t want my accent to be displeasing to the ear,” she explains.

In contrast, Oreiro, reassured by the respect she has achieved in Eastern Europe and in Asia – regions where Spanish is not spoken – , prefers to maintain her own personal and cultural trademarks.

“Latin artists, in general, reach the United States first, and then head to Europe. I did it the other way round, but I don’t know if it was a mistake,” she said.

“I feel attracted by ‘European-ness’,” said the Uruguayan, who began her artistic career, like Shakira, as an actress, and then made the jump to music. So far, the public response has been what most would call fanatical, with some young admirers imploring her to adopt them, according to Oreiro’s representatives.

When she was a girl, she appeared in television advertisements in Uruguay. At 14, she joined the cast of dancers on Xuxa, a Brazilian children’s TV programme, and at 16 she moved to Buenos Aires, where she starred in soap operas that were aired in several countries in Latin America and Europe.

But it was with her first album, “Natalia Oreiro”, that the popularity of this attractive dark-haired woman took off. Today, if Oreiro visits Moscow it is front-page news.

Since she began her singing career she has received the Celebrity 2000 award from the E! Entertainment Channel, was invited to Spain’s Hispanidad Gala Ball, and is now a nominee for the Latin Grammy, to be awarded this September in Miami.

Newspapers, magazines, radio and television programmes in the countries where she is already famous coincide in pointing to the apparent “addictive” quality of the Oreiro phenomenon. Once the public knows who she is, the media are obligated to provide periodic updates about her tours, awards, albums and private life.

Oreiro’s fans may end up removed from a concert on a stretcher – as occurred in Poland – or receive a hug or a kiss from the Uruguayan singer, who is capable of spending hours on end among her followers signing autographs.

This may be the element that turned the actress into such a beloved figure in Eastern Europe. Her continued efforts to bridge the distance between herself and her fans – which often includes inviting children and adolescents to join her on stage – seems to be the secret to her success.

Her obstinacy in steering clear of the US market, refusing to sing in English and avoiding at all costs a transformation that would convert her into a ready-made product for the entertainment industry may be cutting a new route to fame for Latin American artists who want to maintain their cultural identity.

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