The 49th Annual GRAMMY Awards Roundup: Latin/World Fields

  • Julieta Venegas
    Photo: JB Lacroix/
    Julieta Venegas
January 31, 2007 -- 4:20 pm PST

The GRAMMY Awards honor recordings in 108 categories across 31 fields, from rap to classical. To help readers get a better sense of the nominees and the wealth of recordings they’ve created over the past year, has prepared these field Roundups, which give quick details on the nominees in an easy-to-read format.

Until a few years ago, the name of Tijuana-born chanteuse Julieta Venegas was strongly associated with the burgeoning genre of Latin rock. All that changed in 2003 with the release of Sí, an album of unassuming, tuneful love songs that catapulted Venegas into pop stardom. The singer, keyboardist and accordion player has followed a similar road on the equally successful Limón Y Sal. Not surprisingly, the collection has earned a nomination in the BEST LATIN POP ALBUM category. Two veteran popsters are vying for the award too: former Los Bukis leader Marco Antonio Solís has been nominated for Trozos De Mi Alma 2, a follow-up to one of the Mexican balladeer's most memorable albums. And Guatemalan poet Ricardo Arjona continues exposing his philosophical musings on life and love on Adentro. Also nominated: Puerto Rican singer Obie Bermúdez with Lo Que Trajo El Barco and Cuban-born, New York-raised Fulano with Individual.

A Venezuelan sextet that fuses funky disco jams with silky bossa novas and fiery mambos, Los Amigos Invisibles came up with an intriguing concept for their fifth album, Superpop Venezuela. The record finds the New York-based band covering the South American hits of decades past that they grew up with during the '70s and '80s, and it has earned Los Amigos a chance at GRAMMY grandeur in the BEST LATIN ROCK, ALTERNATIVE OR URBAN ALBUM category. Two artists in the popular reggaetón genre are also nominated: Puerto Rican collective and triple Latin GRAMMY winners Calle 13 with its inventive, self-titled debut, and idiosyncratic rapper Tego Calderón with the highly anticipated The Underdog/El Subestimado. Rounding out the nominations are Mexican supergroup Maná with Amar Es Combatir and Puerto Rican band Black:Guayaba with its 80s tinged Lo Demás Es Plástico.

A volatile combination of Latin hip-hop and Panamanian dancehall, reggaetón has left an indelible mark in most Latin genres. In fact, two of the nominees in the BEST TROPICAL LATIN ALBUM category have been directly influenced by reggaetón. Fuzionando, the latest recording by legendary Venezuelan sonero Oscar D'Leon, is a clever attempt at modernizing the singer's traditional Afro-Caribbean sound. Former Dimensión Latina vocalist Andy Montañez takes an even more direct approach on the self-explanatory Salsatón: Salsa Con Reggaetón. The Miami-based Tiempo Libre, on the other hand, looks for inspiration elsewhere. The multi-piece orchestra delivers a perfect recreation of the '90s timba sound perfected by Cuban groups like Los Van Van and NG La Banda. The group's What You've Been Waiting For — Lo Que Esperabas, vies for a GRAMMY together with two celebrated Puerto Rican salseros: Tito Nieves with Hoy, Mañana Y Siempre, and the gentlemanly Gilberto Santa Rosa with Directo Al Corazón.

The female spirit makes its presence felt this year in the BEST MEXICAN/MEXICAN-AMERICAN ALBUM category. The former vocalist with Grupo Límite, Alicia Villarreal vies for the award with Orgullo De Mujer. Ana Bárbara, an eclectic performer who has recorded songs in various regional Mexican formats, competes with No Es Brujería. Also present are two male singers whose innovative arrangements and choice of repertoire have updated the mariachi aesthetic: former rocker Pepe Aguilar with Historias De Mi Tierra, and ranchera heartthrob Pablo Montero with A Toda Ley. Rounding up the category is Los Angeles-based Mariachi Sol De Mexico De José Hernández and its celebratory collection 25 Aniversario.

Tracing the marriage of U.S. and Mexican culture, tejano is an eclectic genre that combines the fire of boleros with joyous polka melodies and a dash of pop. The GRAMMY nominees in the BEST TEJANO ALBUM category are: San Antonio, Texas, native Chente Barrera Y Taconazo with Sigue El Taconazo; Jimmy Edward, who has also recorded contemporary Christian music, with It's...All Right; veteran Bob Gallarza with the instrumental Live In Session; drummer-turned-singer Jay Perez with All Of Me; and Rebecca Valadez, who brings hints of pop, urban and R&B to her music with a self-titled effort.

The reckless, accordion-heavy genre of norteño has one undisputed leader: Los Tigres Del Norte, the legendary group with a decades-long history that includes dozens of hit singles, albums and movies. Their latest effort, Historias Que Contar, underscores norteño's knack for storytelling and is among the nominations in the BEST NORTEÑO ALBUM category. Almost as successful as Los Tigres, Conjunto Primavera has bewitched its legions of fans with a honeyed sound that favors a more romantic approach. The group vies for the award with Algo De Mí. Unlike Primavera, the music of Los Huracanes Del Norte is pure, hardcore norteño roots. The group is nominated for Puro Pa' Arriba, joined by Pesado (originally known as Grupo Pesado) with Piénsame Un Momento and Retoño with Prefiero La Soledad.

If norteño's musical identity is defined by its bouncy accordion riffs, banda sinaloense is all about the elephantine combination of larger-than-life tubas, clarinets and the syncopated beat of the charolas. This one-of-a-kind genre was pioneered by the seminal Banda El Recodo — an outfit that continues touring and recording to this day. In fact, Banda El Recodo de Cruz Lizárraga is nominated for a GRAMMY in the BEST BANDA ALBUM category for an album that finds the orchestra feeling "stronger than ever": Más Fuerte Que Nunca. Also vying for an award is Más Allá Del Sol by Joan Sebastian, a prodigious singer/songwriter and the genre's most influential solo artist. Rounding up the nominations are Banda Machos with 20 Mil Heridas, Cuisillos with Amor Gitano, and Ezequiel Peña with A Mucha Honra.

The timeless traditions of India, Iran, South Africa, Scandinavia and Central Asia are celebrated in the BEST TRADITIONAL WORLD MUSIC ALBUM category. Representing South Africa, the awe inspiring Soweto Gospel Choir competes with Blessed, a collection of vibrant gospel numbers. Golden Strings Of The Sarode finds Indian percussive master Zakir Hussain collaborating with Aashish Khan. A tribute to the cozy joys of Scandinavian winter, Hambo In The Snow by Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelley and Charlie Pilzer is all about the sound of the fiddle, accordion and vocals. Also nominated: Iranian classical composer Hossein Alizadeh and Armenian duduk master Djivan Gasparyan with Endless Vision, and The Academy Of Maqâm with Music Of Central Asia Vol. 2: Invisible Face Of The Beloved: Classical Music Of The Tajiks And Uzbeks.

The many faces of African popular music are present this year in the race for the BEST CONTEMPORARY WORLD MUSIC ALBUM GRAMMY. The nominated artists are Richard Bona, singer and multi-instrumentalist from Cameroon, with Tiki; Salif Keita, a visionary artist from Mali, with M'Bemba; Ali Farka Toure with Savane, the Malian guitarist's final studio offering; and South African ensemble Ladysmith Black Mambazo with Long Walk To Freedom. Delivering an abrupt change of pace in this category are the Klezmatics with Wonder Wheel — Lyrics by Woody Guthrie, which, like Billy Bragg and Wilco's 1998 album Mermaid Avenue, sets unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics to music.