“The ‘Macarena’ did not die,” says Chris Urquiaga. In fact, the ubiquitous Latin-pop hit that was all the rage during the summer of 1996 is very much alive and kicking in a transformed cover version that also marks Urquiaga’s first official release as JChris, a nickname derived from his two given names of John Christopher and originally coined by a classmate at Beltsville’s High Point High School. “JChris did not exactly match what I presented in my first two albums, as I was in a more adult contemporary sound,” he says.
Born and raised in Maryland to immigrants from South America, the 29-year-old has covered a lot of ground in the decade since first coming to attention as a classical composer and artist studying at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. After branching out into pop through participation in Strathmore’s career-boosting Artist-in-Residence program in 2017, JChris sees “Macarena” as his calling card to becoming an urban Latin pop act.
“Johnny de Jesus is a new collaborator of mine who helped transition me into this urban sound,” says the artist, noting that de Jesus developed the hook that makes JChris’ debut release a subtle and sophisticated rework of the Los del Rio original. “We have a totally different melody and a totally different feel for the ‘Macarena,'” he says. “What hasn’t changed are the principal Spanish lyrics and the song’s overall theme. “It’s the original message, give your body joy, reimagined and modernized for 2020.”
To give the song contemporary visual flair, de Jesus recommended Chastity Corset, a local video director whom JChris calls “a master at color.” The colors certainly pop in scenes of Corset’s sharp, stylized video featuring a pristinely restored coupe from the early 1970s. The teal-colored, slightly souped-up Chevrolet Caprice Classic is festooned with a vibrant arrangement of flowers draped from the roof. Some fans have commented to JChris that it looks like a funeral car. “It is not,” he says. “It’s not a death [car]. It’s a celebration. We just wanted to give some variety of color and some very eye-catching moments in the video.”
Local dance teacher Darryl Pilate headed up the video’s choreography. Calling the result “masterfully done,” JChris says Pilate “exceeded my expectations in creating a new and improved version of ‘Macarena.'” A diverse mix of local teenagers and young adults bring Pilate’s choreography to life in scenes captured on a very hot and long recent summer day.
“It was 95 degrees out. We were recording it all day to really get each scene right,” JChris says. “But everyone, including the child actors, were so diligent in wanting to give their all, in wanting to do an excellent job for Chastity, Darryl, and me. I’m so proud to have done this video with fellow P.G. County Public Schools alumni.
“One of the big goals of this video was to promote ethnic diversity and to create an environment where people of color/BIPOC were represented — not only in front of the camera, but behind the camera as well,” says JChris. He further hopes to inspire others through a new dance challenge launching next week on TikTok, the social media site that served as a source of inspiration for the choreography in the first place. “This is a song for all, and all people can feel free to participate and dance with us.”
“Macarena” by JChris is available for streaming on most music platforms and social media sites. A Dance Challenge will launch on Monday, Aug. 31, on TikTok at @jchrismusic, while a Karaoke Challenge will launch on Friday, Sept. 4, on both TikTok and Instagram at @jchris_music. Visit www.jchrisofficial.com.
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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @ruleonwriting.
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