Q&A with Colombian Singer Charlie Zaa

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Charlie Zaa's new album, En Otro Tiempo, features 10 salsa songs.

Charlie Zaa's new album, En Otro Tiempo, features 10 salsa songs.

Colombian singer Charlie Zaa has released a new studio album, En Otro Tiempo.

Zaa produced En Otro Tiempo, which is his first solo salsa album.

The tribute includes 10 hit songs made famous by Grupo Niche and composed by its legendary founder Jairo Varela. Zaa brings a new twist to the classic tracks; therefore, he’s made them his own while also retaining the songs’ essence, which is the salsa sound.

Zaa began his career in Colombia with Grupo Niche before launching a successful solo career with his multi-platinum selling debut album, Sentimientos, in 1997.

The album’s first single, “Digo Yo,” is now playing all over the U.S.

Zaa is part of the Latin GRAMMY® winning CD/DVD Sergio George Presents: Salsa Giants project that was recorded at the North Sea Jazz Festival.

In an exclusive interview for Living Out Loud, Zaa talked about the album, passion for salsa, song selection, fashion, Los Angeles, Mexico and more.

Living Out Loud: How did you welcome the new year?
Charlie Zaa: I was with my family – my wife, my 2 kids, my sister-in-law and a nephew.

LOL: How did the concept for your latest album, En Otro Tiempo, come about?
CZ: It’s no secret that I gained notoriety through bolero, but it’s also important to note to all my fans that I’ve always had a close connection with salsa. I’ve managed to, in one way or another, include it in my shows over the past 8 years. This genre is what truly fuels my passion, and brings me great joy. It gives me life. I wanted it to be the focal point of my live shows, so now they have truly come to life. They will take you on a rollercoaster of emotion. We begin with a waltz, follow with a bolero, continue with cumbia and finish off with great salsa. That’s very important to me.

LOL: What can you tell us about the process of making this a reality?
CZ: Well, this has been a project in the making for the past 8 years. Making this jump has taken a lot of time, and required the commissioning of great musicians. I was able to get in touch with Morist Jimenez, who produced this album, and was a producer and arranged material for Grupo Niche…I’ve worked with many musicians who are very knowledgeable with the genre, and I want it to be clear that this isn’t some capricious outburst. I’m just following my passion, and I’ve been wanting to do this for a very long time. 20 years ago, when I recorded my first album on a professional level, it was a salsa album.

LOL: There are so many salsa songs out there. How did you select these 10 to re-interpret?
CZ: Well, these 10 songs are part of what I consider to be the most important catalogue of Colombia’s most influential salsa group, Grupo Niche. For me, this has been of the upmost importance. It’s wonderful to be able to use these songs, but it doesn’t end there. There are more than 60 hits throughout their 30-year career. For me, it brings me great joy to be able to share these 10 songs, and offer them to the fans, especially those who know me as a bolero singer.

LOL: What has fashion meant to you throughout your career?
CZ: I’ve always been blessed because my wife has always been involved in all things fashion throughout my career, so she has been a source of immense support for me. My family as well. Who better than your wife or your family to tell you what looks good on you and what doesn’t?

LOL: What can you tell the youth out there who might one day want to follow in your footsteps?
CZ: I would say, everything you set out to accomplish in your life, do it for God. If you truly do this for God, everything will turn out well and will work out. Doors will open for you.

LOL: What else is in your agenda for the coming months?
CZ: I will continue promoting on radio and television, to let the fans know about the new project. I’ll also be embarking on a concert tour, and I’ll be heading to Mexico to fulfill some engagements I have in Acapulco, Veracruz and Mexico City. I’ll also be traveling to Chile and Florida, on April 10. Also, we’ll be involved with the Premio Lo Nuestro awards.

LOL: Whenever you come here in LA, the public loves you, and you always sell out. What can you tell your LA fans about your next visit here?

CZ: I’m first and foremost truly grateful for their unconditional love and support. With this new project, I hope to recapture that affection I’ve received with my past work.

LOL: What has Mexico meant for your career?
CZ: It’s meant so much, not just for me but for everyone. Mexico has served as the launching point for so many artists over the years, in all genres. Mexico has always brought wonderful things to me, and the fans are very special. People have been very loving and welcoming to me. I will always be grateful for what it has meant throughout my career.

Edison Millan contributed to this story.

Marvin Vasquez is a Senior Staff Reporter for Living Out Loud - LA, covering lifestyle, entertainment and sports. Follow him on Twitter: @geo_la
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