| Ricky Martin and Shakira
Los Angeles, Sept. 16 (Reuters): The Latin Grammys, cancelled last year because of the September 11 attacks, return this week as the Latin music scene flourishes with innovation but battles a sales slump, piracy and limited play on the radio.
Despite the sector’s challenges, almost everyone involved with the third annual Latin Grammy Awards, scheduled to air live from Hollywood on Wednesday on CBS, is upbeat at the prospect of the show’s return to prime time.
“We’re all looking forward to this since there was such a pall over the event last year,” said Frank Welzer, chief executive officer of Latin America, Sony Music International.
Last year’s gala was overshadowed by controversy even before the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, which occurred on the day the show was to have aired.
Before September 11, show organisers sparked a firestorm by yanking it out of Miami and scheduling it for Los Angeles amid fears anti-Castro demonstrators protesting the presence of Cuban artists might wreak havoc. And just like last year, this year's nominees are featuring more cutting-edge artists than the usual big crossover English-speaking pop stars like Ricky Martin.
Politics again are a driving force, with artists from Colombia, a nation mired in civil war, ranking prominently among the dozens of categories, ranging from flamenco to samba, rock, classical, salsa, merengue and Mexican regional.
“One of the most fertile music grounds right now is in Colombia, partly because of the political upheaval there,” said Bruno Delgranado, president of Maverick Musica, the Latin division of Madonna’s Maverick label, a joint venture with Warner Music. “The new generation of Colombians have found ways to express their anger and distress and there is amazing stuff coming out of there now,” he said.
Sizzling Colombian rocker Shakira, who has crossed over into the mainstream market with a unique blend of pop, West Asian riffs and salsa, will perform on the show. Her video Suerte (Luck) is nominated for Best Music Video.
Another Colombian powerhouse is pop star Carlos Vives, nominated for best album of the year for his Dejame Entrar (Let Me In).
Also hailing from Colombia is rocker Juanes, 29, who shocked many last year when he swept the nominations for his brand of rock and Colombian vallenato. The three-time winner will perform this year with pop singer Nelly Furtado. He holds three nominations for the single A Dios Le Pido (To God I Ask), including song of the year, best rock song and best music video.
Another big trend is the continued blending of genres from around the world, perhaps best demonstrated by veteran Cuban-born septuagenarian Celia Cruz, nominated for best record of the year for her contemporary, edgy hip-hop La Negra Tiene Tumbao (The Black Woman Has What It Takes), considered one of year’s best dance tunes.
“There’s a combination of unknowns and established artists who are coming out with newer sounds. A lot of Latin talents have come of age in a more globalised world,” said Luis Brandwayn, president and founder of Batanga.com, a Latin Internet radio network.