More About Rubén Blades

A time to feel / Un tiempo para sentir

Besides being a great way to learn new vocabulary and train your ear to the sounds of the language, listening to music in Spanish can teach you much about the people and culture of the Spanish-speaking world. 

Music, culture, and inspiration with Ruben Blades
Music for culture, history, & inspiration

Although Rubén Blades is best known for his salsa music, students who are new to Latin music often enjoy the slower and more reflective sounds of his 1999 album Tiempos ("Times").

Here, one can find a variety of Caribbean and Latin American rhythms and sounds, and lyrics which expose both the beauty and challenges of Latino culture.

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More about Rubén Blades has called Rubén Blades the "Renaissance man of Salsa."

Born in Panama, Rubén Blades first achieved recognition in the New York Latin scene in the 1970's for his collaboration with Willie Colón on the hit salsa album "Siembra." Blades became world famous with the song "Pedro Navaja," which tells the story of a Latino "Mack the Knife."

Today, Rubén Blades is one of the most respected artists in Latin American music. He received a Grammy for his album "Antecedente" in 1988.  Other albums include "Buscando America" (1984), "Escenas" (1985), "Agua De Luna" (1987), "Caminando" (1991), and "La Rosa De Los Vientos" (1996).  "Tiempos" came out in 1999, and "Mundo" in 2002. Compilations include "Best of Rubén Blades" (1992) and "Greatest Hits" (1996).

Besides his musical career, Blades has acted in several films, including The Milagro Beanfield War, Dead Man Out, and All the Pretty Horses. In 1994, he ran for president of Panama and received 17% of the popular vote.

A Time to Think

Blades has called his work "musical journalism" and an "urban chronicle" (from  His lyrics deal with all aspects of Latin culture and often have a political edge.

Some of the themes are not pretty. For example, on the Tiempos album, the song "20 de diciembre" describes the U.S. invasion of Panama from a Panamanian perspective, and "Sicarios" is about a "hit" for the cartel. 

However, on the same album, you get "Aguacero" (Thunderstorm) in which Blades recalls the hopeful wisdom of his grandmother, and "Creencia" (Belief), which speaks to the importance of faith.  The title track "Tiempos" (Times), is a thoughtful take on the Biblical passage "There's a time to live, and a time to die..."

Rubén Blades lives in New York City and is bilingual, so many of his albums include an English translation of the Spanish lyrics.  Blades also has an album entirely in English called "Nothing But The Truth" (1988), which can be a good way to familiarize yourself with the music and culture if you don't speak much Spanish. 

The music of Rubén Blades can make you jump up and dance, or relax into the gentle sounds of a love song.  But perhaps more importantly, this music will challenge you to think and feel.

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