Shakira, Carlos Vives Testify in 'Bicicleta' Plagiarism Case

Tonino Mebarak (L), Shakira and Carlos Vives (R) attend court for an alleged plagiarism case involving the song 'La Bicicleta' on March 27, 2019 in Madrid, Spain.
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Tonino Mebarak (L), Shakira and Carlos Vives (R) attend court for plagiarising the song 'La Bicicleta' on March 27, 2019 in Madrid, Spain.

Shakira attracted a crowd of photographers outside a Madrid courthouse this morning (March 27) when she appeared with fellow Colombian star Carlos Vives to testify in a plagiarism case filed against them by Livám, a Cuban singer and songwriter.

Livám (whose real name is Rafael Castellano Valdés) says that the Shakira and Vives’ Latin Grammy-winning hit “La Bicicleta” used parts of his 1997 song  “Yo Te Quiero Tanto,” which he says he had pitched to Vives, without his permission.

On the stand, Shakira bluntly negated Livám’s claim.

“The style is completely different,” Shakira testified (in Spanish), according to a report by a journalist from El Pais newspaper who was present in the courtroom. “I don’t know if the plaintiff was trying to do a vallenato, but it didn’t turn out for him. It’s like a child who wants to catch a ball but he doesn’t know how. The other song is salsa. Here, and in China, ours is a vallenato.” (Like the Colombian traditional rhythm vallenato, Livám's song features accordian.)

Shakira further stressed the geographical contrasts in the origins of the artists and the sound of the two songs by stating “My song is not about Cuba, it’s about Baranquilla,” referring to her native city in Colombia, where scenes for the “La Bicicleta” video, which shows her biking blissfully together with Vives, were filmed.

Carlos Vives, who had been scheduled to take the stand on Thursday, but arrived together with Shakira, defending his reputation before the presiding judge at Madrid’s Mercantile Court no. 12.

“I changed the history of the music of my country and I was raised among vallenato minstrals in the streets,” he said, according to El Pais. “My work is about modernizing traditional Colombian music. People call me the king of vallenato…My music is unique, no one else does it. I invented it.”

In his demand, filed in court in 2017 by his management, MDRB (Maryla Dianik Romeu) Music, Livám said he had sent Vives “a sample” of his song, proposing that he record it. The Cuban artist said that Vives subsequently used a part of his song without permission, specifically the chorus. In “La Bicicleta, Shakira and Vives sing "que te sueño y te quiero tanto" (I dream about you and I love you so much”). In his song, Livám sings, “yo te quiero y te quiero tanto” (I love you and I love you so much.”)  Livám has accused Vives of using the same chords, rhythm and melody in the chorus.

Livám has said that before filing the suit, he approached Sony Music, which denied his  request that the chorus of the song be changed.

“Nobody owns the words Ì love you so much,” Vives scoffed in a 2017 interview in El Pais.

Livám and his representative filed the lawsuit against Sony Music Latin, Sony Music Entertainment, Sony ATV Publishing holdings Spain, EMI Music Publishing Spain, Shakira, Vives and producer Andrés Eduardo Castro. 

Listen to “La Bicicleta” and “Yo Te Quiero Tanto” below.

Shakira is due back in a court in Madrid on June 12 to answer to charges of evading 14.5 million euros ($16.4 million in taxes).