November 1, 2005

Latin Grammys returning to roots

By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - After being broadcast in English to
dwindling TV audiences in recent years, the recording
industry's Latin Grammy Awards will be broadcast in Spanish for
the first time on Thursday.

In a departure from previous years when CBS aired the show,
the 6th Annual Latin Grammy Awards will be telecast from the
Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Univision, the nation's
leading Spanish-language network.

"We had this dream with CBS about promoting this type of
music to people who did not know about it and we thought the
best way to do that was in English," said Latin Recording
Academy President Gabriel Abaroa.

But those efforts apparently backfired as the number of
U.S. viewers who tuned into the awards show dropped sharply,
swinging from a strong 7.5 million in 2000 to just 3.2 million
last year, according to Nielsen Media Research.

"We're now focusing on our core audience, although friends
of Latin music will find it wherever they are," Abaroa said.

Latin music experts attribute the decline to various
reasons, including the fact the Grammys had begun to focus on
more eclectic acts who were lesser-known to English-speaking
audiences than in earlier telecasts when mainstream superstars
like Ricky Martin dominated the show and drew more
English-speaking viewers.

The shift to the more obscure reflects an overall trend in
Latin music as artists have returned to their roots after the
much ballyhooed "Latin Explosion" of 1999 proved a bust.

"Five years ago, there was the crossover energy where all
of a sudden, 'Time Magazine' and 'Newsweek' were saying things
like the 'Latino Wave was coming.' But it didn't really happen
that way," Abaroa said.


Martin's crossover into the U.S. pop scene with his hit
"Livin' la Vida Loca," was followed by a few others, like
Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony and Enrique Iglesias.

But while stars like Shakira have recently shot up the
mainstream music charts, the so-called Latin Explosion has
faded for the most part, putting a crimp in efforts to
transform the Latin Grammys into an event that appeals across

The Latin Grammys also lost momentum when the second
telecast was canceled due to the September 11 terrorist
attacks, which happened on the day of the scheduled show.

Despite the show's struggles, Latin music is gaining
momentum with U.S. sales of Latin albums for the first nine
months of this year up 10.8 percent, versus a drop of 7 percent
in overall U.S. albums sales, Nielsen Soundscan said.

Los Angeles-based Univision on various occasions has
regularly beat one or more of the four major networks in
ratings and had a huge success with its own Latin music awards,
"Premios lo Nuestro" in February, drawing 6.3 million viewers.

This year's Latin Grammys offers a nod to both veterans and
newcomers, with alternative Spanish singer-songwriter Bebe
leading the field with five nominations.

Bebe, whose music is pop mixed with flamenco and
electronica, earned nods for album of the year for her "Pafuera
Telaranas" and record and song of the year for the single,

Pop-salsa singer Marc Anthony, Colombian
alternative-rocker-turned-pop-star Juanes, Mexican pop-rock
singer Aleks Syntek, Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Obie
Bermudez and Miami-based teenage rocker JD Natasha scored three
nominations each.

The show will feature 43 categories for Spanish and
Portuguese-speaking artists.