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Latin Grammys to showcase diverse sound, geography

The 12th Latin Grammy Awards to be televised on Thursday in Las Vegas will feature artists of many musical genres and from throughout North, Central and South America and the Caribbean, as well as Spain.

November 10, 2011|By Reed Johnson, Los Angeles Times
  • Ren Prez of Calle 13
Ren Prez of Calle 13 (Barbara Davidson, Los Angeles…)

Like the Tonys, the Emmys and the Oscars, the Grammy Awards are largely a U.S.-centric affair. Every year a certain number of Europeans, Latinos and others take home trophies. But the lion's share of statuettes in major artistic categories wind up in homes and production company offices in New York or California.

Not so the Latin Grammy Awards, which will mark their 12th anniversary at Thursday night's Univision-televised ceremony at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Representing artists from throughout North, Central and South America and the Caribbean, as well as Spain and various Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking enclaves, the Latin Recording Academy disperses its awards across a broad range of nationalities as well as musical genres.

"With the Latin Academy, because it's an international organization, you have the worldwide mix of talent," said Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

That variety is reflected in this year's nominations, although the lineup is dominated by Puerto Rico's Calle 13. The duo of stepbrothers René Pérez, who calls himself Residente, and Eduardo Cabra, a.k.a. Visitante, winners of 10 previous Latin Grammys and two Grammy Awards, received 10 nominations this year, a record number for any Latin artist.

Calle 13 will compete for album of the year with "Entren Los Que Quieran," and record of the year with "Latinoamérica," a stirring tribute to the creativity and resiliency of Latin America's disparate peoples.

The other nominees for record of the year are "Tan Sólo Tú" by Franco De Vita with Alejandra Guzmán; "Gritar" by Luis Fonsi; "Golpes En El Corazón" by perennial Mexican favorites Los Tigres Del Norte; and "Lo Mejor De Mi Vida Eres Tú" by Ricky Martin featuring Natalia Jiménez.

For album of the year, the other nominees are De Vita's "En Primera Fila"; the self-titled "Alex, Jorge y Lena"; Enrique Iglesias' "Euphoria"; and Shakira's "Sale El Sol."

In an interview, Gabriel Abaroa, president and chief executive of the Latin Recording Academy, said he believes that Latin American audiences have grown increasingly cosmopolitan in their receptiveness toward music from throughout the hemisphere. Puerto Rican hip-hop/urban groups now perform at Luna Park in Buenos Aires. Mexican progressive rockers and Colombian electronica DJs draw Internet listeners from Peru and Bolivia.

"Shakira pertains to everyone, Ricky Martin pertains to everyone, and Luis Miguel and Vicente Fernandez," Abaroa said, referring to the Colombian and Puerto Rican pop stars, as well as to two old-school Mexican performers with hemisphere-wide fan bases.

In the United States, music festival programmers and concert promoters are striving to keep up with the eclectic pan-Latin tastes of the country's surging Latino population, as well as with the growing receptiveness of non-Spanish-speaking audiences to Spanish-language music. Spanish-language music also is increasingly turning up on the playlists of U.S. progressive and independent English-language radio stations.

Oddly, one remaining holdout of provincialism is U.S. Spanish-language radio stations, many of which stick to narrow formats, such as pop ranchera. Few mirror the diversity and vitality of the contemporary Latin American and Latino field.

"Radio stations work either very independently or they work on hits and mainstream songs and they only play like 10 or 12 artists all day in a loop and they don't play a variety," said drummer Rodrigo Guardiola of the Mexican band Zoé, one of this year's nominees for best alternative music album.

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