Berklee Today

Guerramania Grips Berklee during Latin Culture Week

  Juan Luis Guerra
  Juan Luis Guerra listens as the audience sings along to his song "La Bilirrubina" during his November visit to Berklee.
  Nick Balkin

On Tuesday, November 16, "Guerramania" overtook Berklee when Latin music superstar Juan Luis Guerra '82 visited the college for Berklee's fifth annual Latin Culture Week. Among the events in which Guerra participated was a visiting artist clinic given to an enthusiastic crowd of Berklee's Hispanic students in the David Friend Recital Hall.

Guerra came to Berklee after having just completed a fall tour of 16 countries in support of his new CD, Para Ti. Released in August, the new disc has already sold well over a million copies. Guerra is renowned throughout the Spanish-speaking world for setting his uniquely personal and poetic lyrics to traditional merengue and bachata rhythms from his native Dominican Republic with jazz-influenced harmonies. Guerra is a sensation in the world of tropical music.

During his much-anticipated clinic, Guerra shared recollections of spending countless hours in Berklee's Media Center listening to recordings by such great musicians as Wes Montgomery, Pat Metheny, Oliver Nelson, and the Manhattan Transfer. Guerra credited their influence as the basis for the vocal harmonies that are a hallmark of his numerous platinum-selling records.

Guerra advised his audience to "listen, listen, and listen some more" to the vast body of recordings available at Berklee. He revealed that after playing with a group of other guitarists at the college, he realized that his signature sound would ultimately come from the traditional rhythms of the Dominican Republic.

As the session drew to a close, a unified chant erupted from the ecstatic crowd asking that Guerra perform one of his best known songs, "La Bilirrubina." As he sang, the audience joined in humming the horn lines and singing the lyrics along with Guerra.

Later that evening, student and professional musicians drew on Guerra's catalog of popular works to present a tribute concert honoring the Latin star. During the program, Guerra was given Berklee's Distinguished Alumni Award for his significant contributions to music.