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Best New Artist

September 12, 2000

Cafe Quijano

Listening to the old-fashioned bolero "Falsas Promesas" on the debut album of this Spanish group--the manly vocal delivery, sweeping orchestral arrangement and measured percussion--will make you think you're listening to a vintage recording from the '50s. And yet "La Extraordinaria Paradoja del Sonido Quijano" (The Extraordinary Paradox of the Quijano Sound) was recorded in Madrid in early 1999. And "Falsas Promesas" is actually an original composition by singer-guitarist Manuel Quijano, who, with brothers Oscar and Raul, form the core of one of the most intriguing groups to come out of Spain in a long time.

Ibrahim Ferrer

Best new artist? The Cuban crooner was 72 when he recorded this smoky bolero collection, but it is his first headlining effort. And since resurfacing with the Buena Vista Social Club, he has become an international superstar. The biggest virtue of Ferrer's solo debut is the ease with which it preserves the homemade freshness of the original Buena Vista album. Although the impressive guest list includes pianist Ruben Gonzalez, diva Omara Portuondo and visionary guitarist Ry Cooder (nominated as the album's producer), Ferrer is the star here. His raspy voice sounds weathered but painfully expressive.

Amaury Gutierrez

The evocative phrasing of this 36-year-old Cuban singer and the melancholy poetry of his lyrics on his self-titled collection bring to mind the music of fellow countrymen Pablo Milanes and Silvio Rodriguez. In fact, the story of a woman who sells her body and loses her soul in the process, "La Soledad de Esa Mujer" (That Woman's Loneliness), might be the best song Rodriguez has never written. Helmed by veteran producer Marco Mazzola and recorded in Rio de Janeiro, the album serves as a stunning calling card for an artist who finds inspiration in the "nueva trova" movement while searching for an identity of his own.

Fernando Osorio

Born in Colombia and raised in Venezuela, Osorio was, until now, known principally as a composer. His songs have been recorded by artists as disparate as Ricardo Montaner, DLG, Jerry Rivera and Christian. But Osorio is also a singer, and his self-titled debut finds him delving into the art of the three-minute pop song in the hope of achieving his own stardom. The results are promising, as he delivers a pleasant collection of mid-tempo and slow numbers defined by his raspy voice and crystalline production values. Recorded in Milan, Madrid and Miami, it has the feel of a glossy international production.

Ivete Sangalo

Her voice reminds one of Marisa Monte, and her style has lots in common with the music of Daniela Mercury, which explains why Sangalo had no problems becoming a star in her native Brazil on the strength of her first album. But Sangalo is not new to her country's music scene. For years, she was a member of Banda Eva, one of the Salvador de Bahia groups responsible for the style known as axe, a smoldering combination of African styles from samba, reggae and merengue to salsa, soca and carimbo. Sangalo's debut includes a couple of ballads, but her forte is undoubtedly fast-paced, dance-friendly material.

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