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2018 Latin GRAMMY Special Awards Honors Yuri, Chucho Valdés, Dyango & More
Las Vegas is the place to be this week for the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards, taking place this Thursday. The Latin GRAMMY Week festivities officially kicked off Nov. 13 as the Latin Recording Academy honored influential Latin music artists Erasmo Carlos, Dyango, Andy Montañez, José María Napoleón, Chucho Valdés, Wilfrido Vargas and Yuri with their Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the Special Awards ceremony. Visionary label executives Horacio Malvicino and Tomás Muñoz received the Trustees Award. Both awards celebrate the honorees outstanding and lasting contributions to Latin music.
The celebratory evening honoring these nine people was filled with applause, gratitude and even a few tearful moments as the artists reflected on their achievements and what it took to get there. Latin Recording Academy President and CEO Gabriel Abaroa Jr. and singer Raquel Sofia hosted the event, which, as Abaroa highlighted when opening the event, the awards presented are not "extra GRAMMYs," as they don't honor an album or a song, but a career and legacy of an artist. A touching video showcased each artists' achievements and milestones, and each award was given by a different presenter, who highlighted some of the honoree's most notable career moments, with Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow handing off the first award. The event was livestreamed on Facebook, with fans from around the world sharing in the excitement and celebrating each artist.
"We are proud to pay tribute to this remarkable group of talented artists and music professionals with this year's Lifetime Achievement and Trustees Awards," Abaroa Jr. said in a statement. "Our 2018 class has made outstanding contributions benefitting Ibero-American music, providing innovation and a unique vision in favor of all music lovers."
The first to be honored was the great Cuban jazz musician Chucho Valdés, born to a musician father, who he released a touching duet album with, followed by Brazilian rocker Erasmo Carlos, whose music transcended genres, often with psychedelic influences. Next to be presented the award was Barcelona-born singer Dyango, aka "La Voz del Amor" (The Voice of Love), whose passionate ballads gained him a loyal following in Latin America, and Puerto Rican salsa legend Andy Montañez from Puerto Rico, a lead artist of the growing salsa romántica sound in the '80s. The fifth award went to Mexican singer José María Napoleón, aka "El Poeta de la Canción" (The Song's Poet), who got teary-eyed with gratitude as he said, quite poetically, "gracias por este tesoro gran precioso" (thank you for this beautiful treasure).
The excitement and positivity stayed high throughout the evening, with each presenter having plenty to talk about for each monumental honoree. The second to last Lifetime Achievement Award recipient was Dominican merengue artist Wilfrido Vargas, a trumpet player and bandleader who led the genre forward for years, even mentoring the next generation of artists including Las Chicas de Can, the first all-female merengue group from the Dominican Republic.
The final artist honored—which many Facebook viewers seemed to be waiting for the whole time—was Mexican genre-defying popstar and actress Yuri, aka "La Güera" (The Blonde), or as she's often referred to, the "Global Pop Diva." She shared how thankful she was to her many fans for making her 40 years of work worth it, although she knows she has plenty more work to do. As the presenter of her award said, "Su talento no tiene limites" (her talent has no limits).
Horacio Malvicino, a label executive and jazz musician from Argentina, and Tomás Muñoz, a label executive from Spain who worked with the likes of Julio Iglesias, were both honored with the Trustees Award.
As excitement mounts for Thursday's presentation of this year's Latin GRAMMYs, which recognize the finest artists and projects of the year, the Latin GRAMMYs Special Awards remind us where we come from, celebrating those artists and industry players who paved the road for so many of today's stars.