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The Spotlight’s on La Musica

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Reflecting Latin music’s status as the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. and international music markets, the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences on Friday named the nominees for its first Latin Grammy Awards.

A longtime dream of many in the Latin music world, the Latin Grammys took a dramatic step with the announcement, held at a Miami restaurant owned by Emilio and Gloria Estefan.

The 40 categories in the new Latin Grammys are designed to honor the many genres of music recorded in Spanish and Portuguese that can’t be adequately represented in the seven existing Latin categories of the traditional Grammy Awards. The Latin Grammy ceremony will take place at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sept. 13 and be broadcast nationally on CBS.

While some household names surfaced, including Ricky Martin, Carlos Santana and Marc Anthony, the vast majority of the artists nominated will be relative unknowns to most of the U.S. public, because for a song to qualify as “Latin,” more than half of its lyrics must be recorded in Spanish or Portuguese.

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Cuban-born, Miami-based producer and songwriter Emilio Estefan Jr., founder of the Miami Sound Machine and a Latin music mogul, came away with the most nominations, six in all, for work with various artists in several capacities. He shares producing credits on Carlos Vives’ “El amor de mi tierra,” nominated for best album, and on “Fruta fresca,” a single from that album that is nominated for record of the year. Estefan was also nominated for producer of the year.

Nuyorican singer Marc Anthony and Colombian pop-rocker Shakira got the most nominations among performing artists, with five each.

The nominees for album of the year highlight the diversity of genres covered by the Latin music umbrella, including artists from four nations, and songs in several genres and two languages.

The Dominican Republic’s Juan Luis Guerra was nominated for “Ni es lo mismo ni es igual,” an album featuring merengue and bachata songs. Mexican crooner Luis Miguel was nominated for the romantic pop album “Amarte es un placer.” Shakira received a nod for her “MTV Unplugged” album. Brazilian singer, songwriter and producer Caetano Veloso, a world music favorite, was nominated for “Livro.” And Colombian singer and songwriter Carlos Vives was nominated for “El amor de mi tierra,” which features modern takes on the traditional vallenato genre, as well as other tropical and rock influences.

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The record of the year category, which is limited to singles and individual album tracks, was somewhat less diverse, with no Portuguese or Brazilian presence. Nominees include Marc Anthony for “Dimelo,” the Spanish version of his English hit song “I Need to Know”; Panamanian singer, songwriter and lawyer Ruben Blades for “Tiempos,”; Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin for the Spanish version of “Livin’ la vida loca”; Vives for “Fruta fresca”; and Mexican-born rock icon Carlos Santana for “Corazon espinado.” The latter, a Spanish-language song featuring Mexican rock group Mana, appears on Santana’s “Supernatural,” which won a Grammy this spring for album of the year.

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Besides record of the year, Anthony was also nominated for song of the year, and best pop male performance, all for “Dimelo.” His duet with Jennifer Lopez, “No me ames,” earned nominations for best pop performance by a duo or group with vocal and for best music video.

Shakira’s “MTV Unplugged” album earned her nominations in the album of the year and best pop album categories. Two of her songs from an earlier album, “Donde estan los ladrones,” were nominated for best pop female performance, best music video and best female rock performance.

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Weighing in with four nominations each were Guerra, Vives, Mexican pop-rock group Mana, and Argentine rock star, Fito Paez.

In addition to album of the year, Guerra received nods for song of the year, best merengue performance and best tropical song, all coming from the album “Ni el lo mismo ni es igual.”

Vives’ hit single “Fruta fresca” was also nominated in the best male pop performance, and Vives was nominated for best traditional tropical performance in addition to the best album.

Mana’s additional nominations included best pop album and best pop performance by a duo or group with vocal from its “MTV Unplugged” album.

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Paez was nominated for best male rock vocal performance and best rock song for the single “Al lado del camino,” as well as for best rock album for “Abre.”

Though he made an enormous splash in the mainstream pop world with his English album, Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin was nominated only in two categories, including best male pop vocal performance for the Spanish version of the single “Bella.”

English-language pop star Christina Aguilera, who took home the Grammy for best new artist earlier this year, was nominated in the best female pop vocal performance category for “Genio atrapado,” the Spanish version of her hit “Genie in a Bottle.”

Other categories yielded surprises and Grammy firsts.

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For best new artist, Cuban septuagenarian Ibrahim Ferrer became the oldest person ever nominated in Grammy history in this category. Ferrer was a popular member of Ry Cooder’s Buena Vista Social Club and released his first solo album last year. Cooder’s work as producer of the album earned him a Latin Grammy nomination.

Ferrer is up against another Cuban, folk singer Amaury Gutierrez, who defected to Mexico, where he now lives. Also nominated for best new artist is Brazilian pop singer Ivete Sangalo; Spanish rock trio Cafe Quijano; and Venezuelan folk rocker Fernando Osorio.

Another unusual situation arose in the best ranchero performance category, where two fathers found themselves up against their sons--Antonio and Pepe Aguilar and Vicente and Alejandro Fernandez--something that has never happened in the Grammys since the awards were started almost a half-century ago. Also nominated in the ranchera category is Los Angeles-based singer Nydia Rojas, the only woman in the competitive category.

In some instances, artists are up for a Latin Grammy Award in the same category for which they won a Grammy in the mainstream Grammys earlier this year. For instance, Elvis Crespo, who won for best merengue performance in February, is again up for best merengue performance.

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However, in those categories in which a duplication is possible, such as best traditional tropical performance, and best tejano performance, some new nominees have been added and some old nominees are absent.

Established in 1997, the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences is the first international corporation created by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.

As with the NARAS, the Latin academy is a membership-based association. According to NARAS and Latin academy President and CEO Michael Greene, the Latin academy has about 3,000 voting members, up 200% from this time last year. The NARAS, by comparison, has an estimated 10,000 voting members.

Greene said he and others have been busy recruiting Latin academy members worldwide.

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While much of the Latin music industry is based in Miami, the academy decided earlier this year to hold the awards show in Los Angeles. The academy cited a Dade County ordinance banning trade with Cuba, which would have made participation of Cuban artists such as Ferrer impossible in Miami. The legislation was encouraged by Cuban exiles in Miami.

The United States Supreme Court ruled last month that such local, state or county ordinances contradicting national foreign policy were illegal, making the Dade County ordinance obsolete. Greene says the ruling came in plenty of time to hold the nominations announcement in Miami, but did not come in time to change cities for the awards ceremony.

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Album of the Year

“Ni es lo mismo ni es igual”

Juan Luis Guerra y 400

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“Amarte es un placer”

Luis Miguel

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“MTV Unplugged”

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Shakira

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“Livro”

Caetano Veloso

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“El amor de mi tierra”

Carlos Vives


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