Colombia is a country steeped in history and rich culture. There is stunning natural beauty, great food, and exciting dancing. And, of course, one of the world’s most notorious criminals ever was also from Colombia. But that’s not why we are here.
One aspect of the country that can’t be overlooked is its contributions to music. Latin music has always been very popular. But, in recent years, an explosion of Latin music pushed its popularity through the roof.
So, I’ve decided to take a look at the most famous Colombian singers of all time. Many great singers and performers have hailed from Colombia, and these will be but a few of them.
Top 11 Most Famous Colombian Singers Of All Time
Andrés Mauricio Cabas Rosales was born in Barranquilla, in 1977. His father is Eduardo Cabas, a musician and composer of some note in Colombia.
As a young boy, he was taught Piano and Percussion. During his youth, he traveled to Paris and New York to meet and play with Jazz and Salsa musicians and teachers. He eventually grew bored with foreign sounds and decided to return to Colombia to explore the sounds and rhythms of his native country.
Cabas released his first studio album Cabas with EMI. The album did phenomenally well, and the single “Mi Bombón” stayed at the top of the Colombian charts for three weeks.
The album was later released in the US and exposed him to a world of new listeners. He also got into recording and writing children’s music. Among the artists he’s worked with are Lenny Kravitz, Shakira, and Miguel Bosé.
Cabas has released seven highly successful albums and remains one of Colombia’s biggest singers. When you want the most famous Colombian singers of all time, Cabas is where you should start.
Sebastián Obando Giraldo was born in Medellin, Colombia, where he stayed until age five when his family relocated to Miami. He started learning the piano and vocal techniques at a very young age. By the time he was twelve, he knew he wanted to be a singer.
From the very beginning…
Yatra was mixing things up with his music. He started releasing singles in 2013, and most of them garnered some success in Colombia, Spain, Venezuela, Ecuador, Mexico, and the United States. These tracks were Pop or Rock-type songs that were mixed with Reggaeton elements.
His first taste of true international success came with his single “Traicionera.” The track was a Reggaeton, Trap, and EDM-influenced banger that sounded like nothing else.
He became a truly international artist with the “Traicionera.” It not only did well in Latin America and the States but in Europe too.
Since then, he hasn’t looked back…
He’s released a string of successful singles and three well-received albums. He’s worked with plenty of artists, most notably Daddy Yankee and Natti Natasha. As well as the Jonas Brothers on the 2019 monster hit “Runaway.”
Carolina Giraldo Navarro was born in Medellin in 1991. She began singing when she was very young, and at age fourteen, appeared on the Colombian version of the X factor.
Not too long afterward, she obtained her first recording contract and started calling herself Karol G. One of her first performances was with J Balvin. She released some singles thereafter and also studied music.
During her studies…
Karol sang backup vocals on a bunch of tracks for other artists. She then went to Miami to meet with Universal. But, she was denied a deal because they felt a woman couldn’t be successful in the Reggaeton genre.
This prompted her to independently promote herself. Karol and her father drove all over the country so that she could perform. While this helped, she still wasn’t happy with the traction her career had gained. She moved to New York and started studying music business administration.
Her breakthrough came when she collaborated with Puerto Rican Trap musician Bad Bunny on “Ahora Me Llama.” The track has over 900 million views on YouTube, it has been certified Platinum in Spain and Diamond in the US.
Since then, she has gone from strength to strength. Karol released three highly successful albums and collaborated with the likes of Daddy Yankee and Nicki Minaj. Both of which made her one of the most popular Colombian singers in the business today.
This unique group is based in Bogota and was formed by vocalist/guitarist Andrea Echeverri and bassist/arranger Héctor Buitrago in the 1990s.
The combination of someone who comes from a Punk/Fusion background and an art-school student created a unique flavor that has since grown and developed into many new sounds and styles.
Out of the gate…
The first album, Con El Corazón en la Mano, was very Punk-influenced. It featured distorted guitars and loud, bombastic drums. The second album, however, saw the group starting to incorporate traditional Colombian llanera Rhythms into their music.
Their first major hit, “Bolero Falaz,” had lots of Airplay on MTV Latin America which helped get the band’s name out there. A third album soon followed, then the group toured the US and even did an MTV Live Unplugged performance.
The group is known for writing about a wide variety of subjects…
…including politics and social injustices across the world. One of their music videos features them playing guitars made from decommissioned machine guns. This was in protest against gun violence.
They have released a total of nine studio albums and two live albums. Aterciopelados has won four Latin Grammys and has been nominated for Grammys four times. The two friends own a Rock-Club in Bogota, where they can still be found playing shows sometimes.
Juan Luis Londoño Arias was born in Medellin in 1994. As a youngster, his first interest was football, and he even competed in local divisions for a while before the music bug bit him.
After graduating from school…
Many of his friends encouraged him to start entering singing competitions because he had become known for his lovely voice. His first recording opportunity came when an uncle offered to pay for him to record a tune he had written with a close friend.
He was able to use this recording to generate interest from music producers. They told him he needed to choose a name that would be memorable. So, he used his mother, his father, and his sister’s names to make Maluma. In turn, he became one of the most famous singers from Colombia.
He released some singles and then dropped his debut album, Magia. The most notable song from the album, “Obsesión,” has more than 180 million views on YouTube. In 2014, Maluma collaborated with legendary singer Elvis Crespo on the song “Ole Brazil” for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Maluma has released five studio albums which have generated chart-topping singles and collaborations with other artists, including J Balvin and Jason Derulo.
He’s also successfully transferred into acting, most notably playing in the 2021 animation Encanto and staring across Jennifer Lopez in Marry Me (2022).
Juan Fernando Fonseca was born in Bogota and was only twelve years old when he recorded his first song and distributed 500 copies by himself. His parents encouraged his passion for music from an early age, and he ended up studying music in Colombia and at Berklee in Boston.
He independently made his first album Bomba De Tiempo and sold it door to door. Soon thereafter, he signed with EMI for three albums.
His self-titled album was released in 2002, and quickly his name began to spread amongst music lovers in Colombia. The album was good enough to attract the attention of singers like Shakira and Juanes, both of which gave Fonseca collaboration and gig opportunities.
Fonseca has recorded seven successful albums, received seven Latin Grammys, and been nominated for a Grammy twice. In 2018, he was honored by the Colombian government with “La Orden de Boyacá en Grado Oficial” for his work promoting reconciliation and peace in his native land.
José Álvaro Osorio Balvín was born in May of 1985 and grew up listening to Rock groups like Nirvana and Metallica. To this day, he states that he incorporates some of that influence into his work. When he heard Daddy Yankee for the first time, he developed an interest in the Reggaeton sound.
He moved to New York to study Music and English…
While attending, he also became obsessed with having the proper business savvy to make it in the entertainment industry. He then went back to Colombia and studied international business for seven semesters.
After meeting his DJ and business partner, DJ David Rivera Mazo, Balvin began releasing singles and performing wherever he could get a gig. He eventually got signed to EMI Colombia in 2009. His first single under the label, “Ella Me Cautivó,” charted on the Billboard Hot Tropical songs chart.
Balvin collaborated with Puerto Rican singer Farruko on the single “6 A.M.” The track was a massive hit and helped his 2013 album, La Familia, reach #10 on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart.
Balvin has been nominated for four Grammys and has won eleven Billboard Music Awards, seven Latin Grammys, and five MTV Music Video Awards. So, if he is not one of the most famous Colombian singers of all time, I don’t know who is.
Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez was born in Carolina del Príncipe, Antioquia, in 1972. At the age of seven, he began learning how to play the guitar from his brothers and father. His first influences were very traditional styles like Tango and Vallenato, as well as Russian folk music.
When he was growing up in Medellin, the city had the highest murder rate in its history. This was due to the reign of the notorious drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar.
As a young man, Juanes lost both a friend and cousin to cartel-related violence. This would play a pivotal role in shaping his outlook toward his country and the music he would end up making.
Influenced by world-famous musicians…
Juanes founded his first band, Ekhymosis, in 1988. The group went on to release seven albums and shared the stage with Ricky Martin and Alejandro Sanz, amongst others. The group was disbanded in 1998 so that Juanes could concentrate on doing his own thing.
His debut solo album earned him three Latin Grammys, his second album went Platinum in the U.S., and since then, he hasn’t looked back once. Juanes’ label reports that he has won twenty Latin Grammys and three Grammys.
He’s released nine albums so far and has sold over fifteen million copies worldwide. Juanes also happens to be known for doing a lot of humanitarian work. Most notably, helping victims of anti-personnel mines.
Carlos Alberto Vives Restrepo was born in Santa Marta, Magdalena, in 1961. His family moved to Bogota when he was twelve. There he obtained a degree in advertising from Tadeo Lozano University. While studying, he started listening to Rock music and later performing in local bars and clubs.
In the early 80s…
He began acting in telenovelas. But, he only found real recognition in 1986 when he landed his first major lead role. He also released his first album, but it failed to garner any major success.
His second and third albums came one and three years later, respectively. And, like their predecessor, they failed to make any real noise. So, he went to Puerto Rico for an acting gig and took a break from music for more than a decade.
When he returned to Colombia in 1991…
He landed the role of legendary composer and musician Rafael Escalona in a series based on his life. Carlos gained success from his portrayal of the much-loved Escalona. And also with both the soundtracks for the telenovela on which he sang.
In 1993, he released his first fusion album, Clásicos de la Provincia. It was a fresh combination of the traditional Vallenato style with Rock music. While many critics did not receive the album well, it ended up selling three million copies worldwide and made Carlos known to the whole world.
Carlos has recorded over twenty albums and has sold 30 million records worldwide. He is one of the best-selling Latin artists of all time and is also regarded as one of the most influential Colombian musicians of his lifetime.
Manuel Turizo Zapata, sometimes also called MTZ, grew up in the coastal town of Monteria. When he was born, his parents bought his older brother a small plastic guitar. Years later, young Manuel tried playing this very guitar but found that his aptitude lay in singing more than playing an instrument.
He and his brother soon got to work learning their favorites as well as composing their own tracks. His brother later decided to pursue a career while Manuel had made up his mind to become a singer.
His most famous single, “Una Lady Como Tú,” was released. The track was streamed more than 230 million times on Spotify within a year of its release. As of 2023, it’s got more than 1.4 billion views on YouTube.
A Year later, he dropped “Besame,” which was a collaboration with Puerto Rica singer Valentino. His third single, “Una Vaina Loca,” came a year later in 2018 and marked his first entry onto the Billboard Hot 100. He’s released two studio albums, Dobamina and ADN.
Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll was born in Barranquila in 1977. She spent most of her youth in the coastal city. She started writing poems on a typewriter after seeing her father type stories on one. Later, she started turning her worlds into songs.
While eating at a Middle Eastern restaurant with her father, she witnessed the traditional Doumbek being played. She was so inspired by this wonderful sound that she decided right there and then to become a performer.
Her road would not be easy…
Shakira would have to endure rejections from the school choir for “sounding like a goat” and being told off by the nuns at her catholic school.
She signed her first deal with Colombia at age thirteen. Her first two albums did not fare well commercially. But after some growing pains, she broke into the Latin market with two hugely successful albums, Pies Descalzos (1995) and Dónde Están Los Ladrones? (1998).
She released Laundry Service, which sold thirteen million copies. This album, along with Shakira, is considered one of the breakthrough successes that jump-started the Latin revolution in music.
She has released eleven albums which have sold over 80 million copies worldwide. As a result, she is one of Colombia’s most successful singers and one of the best-selling artists in history.
Looking for More Great Latin Music?
Well, have a look at our detailed articles on the Best Spanish Songs of All Time, the Best Spanish Love Songs, the Best Merengue Songs, the Best Jenni Rivera Songs of All Time, the Best Juan Gabriel Songs of All Time, and the Best Gloria Estefan Songs of All Time for more amazing song selections.
Of course, you need to hear them. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best True Wireless Earbuds, the Best Bass Earbuds, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Most Comfortable Earbuds, the Best Noise Isolating Earbuds, as well as the Best iPhone Earbuds you can buy in 2023.
Most Famous Colombian Singers Of All Time – Final Thoughts
From the traditional to the more modern and upbeat, the story of Colombian music is a rich and powerful one. If you can’t find anything you like amongst the talent assembled here, then you haven’t listened to enough Latin music. Here’s your chance.
Until next time, happy listening.