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Faces to watch at the Latin Grammys

Agustin Gurza sizes up the chances of this year's standout nominees. The awards telecast from Miami is Wednesday night from 9 to 11 on CBS.

August 31, 2003|Agustin Gurza

MOLOTOV

Nominations: Record of the Year, Best Rock Album by a Duo or Group, Best Rock Song, Best Music Video

The back story: These Mexican rock provocateurs would make an incendiary choice in any category. This year, the quartet again stirs the alt- Latino mosh pit with an outrageous, ferocious and funny album, "Dance and Dense Denso." Three of its nominations are for "Frijolero" ("Beaner"), a sneering, satirical take on ethnic hatreds along the U.S.Mexico border. A big win for Molotov is unlikely, since it faces more easily digestible competition in every category. The group is slated to perform, but don't expect to hear "Frijolero." The song's epithets aimed at "gringos" would require too much bleepin' censorship.

JARABE DE PALO

Nominations: Best Rock Album by a Duo or Group, Best Music Video

The back story: This year's award for the most under-nominated act goes to this excellent alt-Latino band from Barcelona, led by singersongwriter Pau Dones. Their uplifting new album, "Bonito," with its Brazilian rhythms and artful lyrics, deserves a place among Album of the Year nominees. In the rock category, Jarabe de Palo is facing three stalwarts of the genre, Jaguares, Mana and Molotov, all from Mexico. Odds are on Mana, the safe choice, or Molotov, the daring one.

RUBEN BLADES

Nominations: Album of the Year, Best Contemporary Tropical Album, Best Engineered Album

The back story: The veteran Panamanian singer-songwriter won a regular Grammy this year for his brilliant "Mundo," named best world music album. A fitting category, since the work spans Celtic, flamenco, salsa and bolero styles. Now it's time the work was recognized on its home turf as one of the best Latin albums in any genre. Blades' adventurous explorations have elevated "Mundo" to a creative sphere all its own. The work wasn't a big seller, but Blades has some chance at best album because he's respected throughout the Latin music world.

TRIBALISTAS

Nominations: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Best Brazilian Contemporary Pop Album, Best Engineered Album, Best Brazilian Song (Portuguese Language)

The back story: Tribalistas is a Brazilian super-group composed of performance artist-poet-rocker Arnaldo Antunes, percussionist-composer Carlinhos Brown and Rio's Marisa Monte, the popular singer-songwriter who also produced. A win in top categories for their acclaimed album would be a long shot. But it would go a long way toward integrating Brazil musically with the rest of Latin America. The nominations for record and album of the year underscore the cultural roots shared by Brazil with the rest of the continent, especially Cuba and the Caribbean.

JUANES

Nominations: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Rock Solo Vocal, Best Rock Song

The back story: Colombia's superstar alt-rocker has issued just two solo albums but holds the record for most nominations in Latin Grammy history, 15. He went from relative unknown to instant celebrity with seven nominations in 2001 for his highly acclaimed debut, "Fijate Bien." His latest CD, "Un Dia Normal," is a much more palatable pop product. It's also the top-selling Latin album of the year, with a record 65 weeks in the Latin Top 10. With that momentum, Juanes could sweep the big three awards, where he's competing with Miami's Bacilos, good but not in the same league.

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