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Latin Roots: Joe Arroyo

Colombian singer Joe Arroyo (left) arrives at the Latin Grammy awards in 2008.
Michael Buckner
Getty Images
Colombian singer Joe Arroyo (left) arrives at the Latin Grammy awards in 2008.

In this installment of our Latin Roots series, The Latin Alternative co-host Ernesto Lechner discusses his favorite singer, an influential Colombian musician named Joe Arroyo.

Arroyo began singing at age 10 in the whorehouses of Cartagena. He was discovered by Fruko (a.k.a. Julio Ernesto Estrada) when he was a teenager and soon joined the salsa player's band, Fruko Y Sus Tesos.

In the 1980s, Arroyo pursued a solo career. He established a unique tropical sound called "Joeson" ("Joe's sound") that mixes salsa, calypso, zouk, compas, merengue, cumbia and Colombian folklore. Joeson was well known in South America, but Arroyo didn't experience the same popularity outside of Colombia.

Here, Lechner tells the story behind the song "Catalina del Mar," which Arroyo wrote for Fruko Y Sus Tesos. Even though the song is upbeat, it references the tragic drowning of his girlfriend while Arroyo watched helplessly from the beach. Then, Lechner discusses "A Mi Dios Todo le Debo," which Arroyo wrote as a solo musician after emerging from a coma due to a drug overdose.

Check out Lechner's playlist of his favorite Arroyo songs on Spotify.

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