Estefan, Miguel, Win Latin Awards

Thursday, September 14th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) — There were paparazzi, a red carpet and big-name stars like Jennifer Lopez, but there also were charro outfits and obscure Argentine rockers.

As the first multilingual event ever broadcast live during prime time on network TV, the Latin Grammys signaled a major breakthrough for Hispanic culture.

``These prizes are very, very important,'' said Mercedes Sosa, the Argentinian folk star who won a Latin Grammy for best folk album. ``For the first time, popular music of Latin America is being recognized.''

Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana, who dominated the regular awards in February with eight Grammys, took home three trophies Wednesday in the inaugural awards show, including the top prize, best album.

The veteran rocker's duet with Mexican rockers Mana, ``Corazon Espinado,'' won record of the year seven months after another Santana song, ``Smooth,'' won the same honor at the other Grammy Awards. He also won for rock performance by a duo or group with vocal and for best pop instrumental performance.

Mexican crooner Luis Miguel also won three awards, including album of the year for ``Amarte Es Un Placer.'' Mana won one award in addition to its two with Santana.

Santana, who alternately dedicated his awards to Africa, the women of the world, bilingual education and Nelson Mandela, said winning so often doesn't make him jaded.

``It feels like the first kiss,'' he said. ``It feels very natural and divine and human.''

As at any awards show, starlets sauntered through in plunging necklines and hunky singers smiled for the cameras as teen-age fans screamed in delight.

But unlike other awards shows, a blue-wigged Celia Cruz, the Queen of Salsa, shrieked ``Mi Madre!'' upon winning and delivered an ecstatic acceptance speech in Spanish. Cruz won for best salsa performance.

Also rarely seen on prime time: Spanish-language exhortations about Latin unity from long-haired Mexican performers Mana and an awards presentation by Argentine rocker Fito Paez.

Shakira, honored for best female vocal and best female rock performance, saluted her native country: ``This is for you, Colombia. Para ti Colombia.''

The parade of performers trading jokes, thanking family members and paying tribute in Spanish and Portuguese on national television was more proof the Latin music boom is there to stay.

There was controversy: Many winners and telecast performers were familiar names like Gloria Estefan, 'N Sync and Christina Aguilera, and the perception that commercial music was favored at the expense of distinctive Mexican styles such as norteno and tejano caused some grumbling leading into the awards.

The largest Latin record label in the United States, Fonovisa, boycotted the awards. Mariachi star Pepe Aguilar, nominated for best ranchero performance, also refused to attend.

Some guests, though, sought to downplay the dispute.

``Before people talk they should get educated,'' said Emilio Estefan Jr., who is married to singer Gloria Estefan and was nominated for six awards for his work as a producer for various artists. ``I was very disappointed about that. ... I hope these awards will unite people.''

Some 2,600 academy members from 15 countries voted for the nominees in 40 categories. Nominated music was required to be 51 percent Spanish or Portuguese-language music.

The awards were started by an offshoot of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, which produces the Grammys, to capitalize on a growing interest in Latin music. The academy hopes the show will travel to a new country each year, Olympics-style.

A hip-swiveling Ricky Martin, paying tribute to the late mambo king Tito Puente, opened the telecast. Puente, who died in June, won an award for best tropical performance.

The academy named a Cuban singer in his 70s, Ibrahim Ferrer, as its best new artist. He came to prominence recently through his work on the ``Buena Vista Social Club'' album.

The two-hour ceremony was televised on CBS and was seen in more than 120 other countries.


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