H ermanos del Tercer Mundo, the group of 45 Latino entertainers formed to contribute to pop music's escalating famine relief campaign, were on a break during their marathon recording session Tuesday when a surprise visitor walked into the studio: Quincy Jones.
The respected producer-arranger stepped to a microphone at A&M's Studio A in Hollywood to express support for the recording of a single titled "Cantare, Cantaras," to be released next month. It was in this same studio Jan. 28 that Jones directed the star-studded "We Are the World" single that has raised more than $16 million for famine relief, chiefly in Africa.
"I hope this spreads like the plague," Jones said of the mushrooming charity efforts. He expressed his continued astonishment at the outpouring of support from all sectors of the music industry, unprecedented in "my 35 years in the business."
Then, in a sly display of his command of Spanish, he took a friendly poke at a sign of male chauvinism that had gone undetected until then.
With the project's dramatic Hermanos del Tercer Mundo logo (English translation: Brothers of the Third World) draped on the studio's back wall, Jones suggested good-naturedly that the effort should have been labeled "Brothers and Sisters of the Third World."
Though this Latino effort is a duplicate in many respects of the "We Are the World" project that featured such major American pop stars as Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie and Bruce Springsteen, it was unprecedented on its own terms: the most distinguished gathering of Latino performers ever for a single recording.
Among the international stars involved in the singing of the flowing, anthem-ish "Cantare Cantaras" ("I Shall Sing, You Shall Sing"): Julio Iglesias, Cantinflas, Celia Cruz, Jose Luis Rodriguez, Emmanuel, Vincente Fernandez and Jose Jose.
Though the roster suffered from omissions (including a glaring absence of anyone strongly identified with socially conscious music), the session--which began around 2:30 p.m. and lasted well past midnight--quickly took on the spirit of an historic event.
Several performers involved in Tuesday's session are familiar to American audiences, including Iglesias, actor Ricardo Montalban, singer/guitarist Jose Feliciano, Prince protege Apollonia, Sergio Mendes, Vicki Carr and arranger/conductor Lalo Schifrin.
But Latino fans will find a deeper thrill in the eventual "Cantare Cantaras" video as they watch Hispanic heavyweights from several disparate musical styles working together. Alongside each other in the studio were Brazil's Carlos, Cuba's Cruz, Puerto Rico's Nydia Caro and Danny Rivera. From Mexico: Emmanuel, Jose Jose, Lucia Mendez, Lupita D'Alessio and mariachi great Fernandez.
Also on hand from Venezuela, sex symbol and singer Rodriguez and "Moscow on the Hudson" singer-actress Maria Conchita Alonso. From Spain, Miguel Gallardo and Rocio Jurado. And from Argentina, pop duet Pimpinela. And finally, the group's elder statesman, the pop music Pope from Mexico, octogenarian Pedro Vargas, in fine vocal form though somewhat distracted and out of place in the youthful atmosphere.
Invariably in this mix of faces, some were going to go unrecognized by those on the A&M grounds who aren't familiar with Latino pop. Though Jones had no trouble recognizing some of the participants, one of the studio guards wasn't as fortunate--much to the chagrin of Diego Verdaguer.
An Argentine singer/songwriter with several international Top 10 Spanish hits, Verdaguer was prevented from re-entering the carefully guarded studio after a break. He was met with the evening's stock security phrase: "Sorry. No one allowed inside."
"But I just want to tell my wife something," pleaded Verdaguer, husband to pop vocalist Amanda Miguel, another project participant. The guard repeated slowly, "No one allowed een-side," thinking the fake, Speedy-Gonzales accent would improve Verdaguer's comprehension.
"But I am a singer," Verdaguer explained patiently to the unmovable sentry. The impasse was solved when a Hermanos staff member spotted Verdauger and led him past the guard.
Coming relatively late to the entertainment world's charity drives, the Latino artists were under considerable pressure to come up with a tune that would be a worthy follow-up to the inspirational "We Are the World" single.
Written by Juan Carlos Calderon, Albert Hammond and Anahi, "Cantare, Cantaras" rises to the ocassion so passionately that Iglesias called it "ideal." The song is melodically appealing, grand yet intimate, with a sweeping, open-arms chorus. Calderon said he studied the structure of "We Are the World" compositon before drafting his original version of the song. And while "Cantare" matches the compelling spirit of 'World," it asserts its own character.
Unlike its English counterpart, "Cantare" speaks directly to the victims of hunger and poverty, instead of the relief samaritans speaking to themselves. This makes it all the more poignant and stirring.
The assembled singers, having rehearsed the chorus for the first three hours of Tuesday's session, finally pulled it together around 5:30. The studio glowed as the song flowed easily, the artists swaying back and forth, hands clasped spontaneously with arms raised.
It was at this touching moment that Apollonia, the irreverent, sassy rocker, grasped the aging, venerable Vargas by the arm like a loving daughter, leaning her head sweetly on the old man's shoulder as they sang. No single image better symbolized the project's success in unifying opposite spectrums of the Latino music world behind a single cause.