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A Diverse And Vibrant Night For Stars Of Latin Music

By David Cázares

May 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003
SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 

Anyone who thought that the exploding popularity of Latin music in recent years was a passing fad had better think again.

An army of performers, from established names to rising stars, is determined to prove that their music is vibrant and marketable to a growing Latin audience -- and the world.

The proof is in this year's Billboard Latin Music Awards at Miami Arena, an event that showcased an incredibly diverse and improving crop of artists.

Unlike some of Billboard magazine's previous award shows, the latest ceremony was not carried by the talented few. Instead, from regional Mexican genres to pop and tropical music, the performers showed that Latin musicians are consistently aiming for quality.

This year's show, airing Sunday on Telemundo, was ably hosted by actress Roselyn Sánchez of Chasing Papi, Puerto Rican singer-actor Carlos Ponce and telenovela star Miguel Varoni. But the focus was clearly on honoring the top songs in Latin music as determined by Billboard's review of sales data.

It was also about making sure the Latin music industry's success story continued. That could explain why the show decided to honor pop star Ricky Martin with its "star" award for his international success.

"This is a very special night for Latin music, a very special night for our culture," Martin said upon accepting the award. He urged his fellow performers not to relive the past but to "keep making history," by continuing to express their heritage through music.

"We have to move forward," Martin said. "We have to keep supporting each other. This is only the beginning."

As if to prove it, Martin -- who a few years ago brought down the house with a Las Vegas-style performance of Livin' La Vida Loca -- again stole the show.

Accompanied by a string ensemble and piano, Martin showed why he is among Latin music's biggest stars, delivering a classy rendition of Tal Vez, an elegant ballad from the album he will release next week.

The awards show was filled with other memorable performances, among them Mexican singer Pilar Montenegro's norteña version of her hit Quítame Ese Hombre and Spanish singer's David Bisbal's energetic performance of his catchy pop tune Ave Maria.

For fans, who were allowed into the awards show for the first time, perhaps the biggest treat of the night was seeing Puerto Rico's Gilberto Santa Rosa, "the Gentleman of Salsa," sing a graceful blend of the up-tempo La Agarro Bajando and the ballad Mentira -- at times matching dance steps with one of his performers and twirling a chair over his head.

The big winners included Puerto Rican dancer and singer Chayanne, who won Latin track of the year, pop airplay track of the year and the award for best greatest hits album. Montenegro won female pop airplay track of the year, regional Mexican track of the year for a female solo artist and for a new artist.

Other winners included Colombian rock star Juanes for male pop album of the year and the Mexican pop/rock group Maná for album of the year.

The show also honored acclaimed Mexican singer and composer Armando Manzanero with the Billboard Hall of Fame Award and Panamanian rapper Edgardo Arias Franco ("El General") with the Billboard Spirit of Hope Award for his civic and humanitarian work.

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