The 48 Annual GRAMMY Awards Roundup: Latin/World Fields
The GRAMMY Awards honor recordings in 108 categories across 32 fields, from rap to classical. To help readers get a better sense of the breadth of the nominees and the wealth of recordings they've created over the last year, GRAMMY.com has prepared these field Roundups, which give quick details on the nominees in an easy-to-read format.
There was a time when pop music represented the artistic nadir of the Latin spectrum — a genre obsessed with commerce and prefabricated starlets. Fortunately those days are over, as a new generation of performers make popular music as sensitive and insightful as it is satisfying. Some of these artists are present in the BEST LATIN POP ALBUM category. A good example is Kevin Johansen, who competes for the GRAMMY Award with Citi Zen, his third album. Johansen has spent most of his life between Argentina and the United States, and his spontaneous biculturalism is palpable in his playful combination of styles, from tango and funk to Beatlesque pop and samba. An equally sophisticated songwriter is Andrea Echeverri, the lead singer with Colombia's acclaimed Latin rock outfit Aterciopelados. She has been nominated for her solo debut, a self-titled collection that celebrates the joys of motherhood. Rounding out the nominations are Guatemala's Ricardo Arjona with Solo; Uruguay's Academy Award-winner Jorge Drexler with Eco; and Laura Pausini with Escucha, a collection that finds the Italian diva making a name for herself in the Spanish-speaking market.
Since the beginning of the millennium, the Latin Alternative landscape has become more flexible than ever before, accommodating new hybrids of hip-hop, Latintronica and rock. This eclectic smorgasbord of innovative soundscapes is reflected in the race for the BEST LATIN ROCK/ALTERNATIVE ALBUM GRAMMY. The category includes good old-fashioned rock and roll (Puerto Rico's La Secta AllStar with Consejo); Afro-Cuban hip-hop (Cuba's Orishas with the boogaloo flavored El Kilo); old-school rap (Puerto Rico's Vico C with Desahogo); irreverent rock with a dash of metal (Mexico's Molotov with Con Todo Respeto); and glossy pop-rock with touches of reggaetón (Colombia's Shakira with Fijación Oral Vol. 1).
Inevitably, the living legends from the Golden Era of Cuban music tend to make themselves heard when it comes time to name the year's BEST TRADITIONAL TROPICAL LATIN ALBUM. Many of these musical giants continue to ply their trade, undeterred by the latest developments in Latin music. One of them is Bebo Valdés, former leader of the seminal Sabor de Cuba orchestra. Bebo enjoyed a worldwide renaissance a couple of years ago through the inspired Lágrimas Negras, a collaboration with flamenco singer Diego "El Cigala." Now, he returns with Bebo De Cuba, a lush double album that spares no expense in its attempt to revive the opulent sound of a bygone Cuba. Equally masterful is Buena Vista Social Club Presents Manuel "Guajiro" Mirabal, the solo debut by Manuel "Guajiro" Mirabal, the man whose potent trumpet playing has graced most of the albums in the popular Buena Vista series. On this particular recording, Mirabal pays tribute to Cuban legend Arsenio Rodríguez. Also nominated: the New York–based Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra With Arturo O'Farrill with Una Noche Inolvidable; Conjunto Progreso with Masters Of Cuban Son; and Tropicana All Stars With Israel Kantor with Tradición.
Does anyone remember the salsa romántica fad? It was in the '80s that a growing number of tropical artists steered away from the hardcore aesthetic of '70s salsa and diluted their sound with touches of pop and glossy production values. Fortunately, it was a short-lived phenomenon, and many of its performers returned to a more organic approach. Now, three veterans from the romántica school of thought come face-to-face in the race for BEST SALSA/MERENGUE ALBUM GRAMMY, which once again is devoid of any merengue records. Willy Chirino's Son Del Alma, Tito Nieves' Fabricando Fantasías, and Eddie Santiago's superlative Despues Del Silencio prove once and for all that these talented salseros are here to stay. The remaining nominees favor a more Cuban approach: the U.S.-based collective Tiempo Libre honor the hyperkinetic timba aesthetic on Arroz Con Mango, whereas Los Van Van vocalist Mayito Rivera embarks on a solo excursion with the much anticipated Llegó La Hora — The Time Has Come.
One of the biggest names in the annals of Latin pop, Luis Miguel spent most of the '90s spearheading a revival of traditional bolero. But the crooner is Mexican at heart, and on México En La Piel he pays tribute to the grand rancheras of the past. Fittingly, the collection leads the nominations on the BEST MEXICAN/MEXICAN-AMERICAN ALBUM category. Also anchored on tradition, Los Angeles-based Nati Cano's Mariachi Los Camperos celebrate Mexico's rich musical heritage with ¡Llegaron Los Camperos! Concert Favorites Of Nati Cano's Mariachi Los Camperos. A more contemporary approach is favored by the romantically oriented Intocable and their best selling two-CD collection DIEZ. Rounding out the nominations are Ramón Ayala y Sus Bravos Del Norte with Ya No Llores, and Las 3 Divas with a self-titled effort.
Some instantly recognizable names grace the BEST TEJANO ALBUM category, which rewards the fusion of Mexican folklore with a distinctly north-of-the-border aesthetic for a genre that continues going strong decades since its creation. Here, Little Joe Y La Familia compete with Chicanisimo, joined by La Tropa F with Milagro; Avizo with The Power Of Friends; Joe Posada with Then & Now;and The Royal Jesters with Odyssey The Journey.
Latin music is also present in the BEST TRADITIONAL WORLD MUSIC ALBUM category, through Para Todos Ustedes, a CD of rootsy Puerto Rican folklore by veteran revivalists Los Pleneros De La 21. Also nominated is In The Heart Of The Moon, an inspired collaboration between Ali Farka Touré and Malian virtuoso Toumani Diabaté, arguably the best known performer of the kora — a traditional instrument that can be described as a cross between a harp and a lute. The music of Iran is also celebrated through a nod to Masters Of Persian Music and Faryad. Additional nominees include Mamadou Diabate with Behmanka, and Lama Tashi with Tibetan Master Chants.
Two highly idiosyncratic albums that caused a stir last year among World music aficionados are dutifully represented in the race for BEST CONTEMPORARY WORLD MUSIC ALBUM. From Mali, the married couple of blind singers known as Amadou & Mariam had already gained notoriety for the poetic interplay of their voices. But they definitely took their music to a higher level when they hooked up with Latin rock rebel and former Mano Negra leader Manu Chao, who ended up producing their joyous new collection of songs, Dimanche A Bamako. Another unique collaboration took place in San Francisco, when the classically oriented Kronos Quartet invited pioneering Bollywood vocalist Asha Bhosle for the recording of You've Stolen My Heart — Songs From R.D. Burman's Bollywood, a colorful travelogue through the psychedelic soundscapes of one of the most creative voices in all of Indian cinema, the late composer, musical director and Bhosle's husband, R.D. Burman. Rounding out the nominations are Brazil's tropicalia master Gilberto Gil with Eletracústico; sitar master Ravi Shankar's daughter Anoushka Shankar with Rise; and South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo & The Strings Of The English Chamber Orchestra with No Boundaries.