- Associated Press - Friday, November 11, 2011

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Hip-hop duo Calle 13 won album of the year at the Latin Grammy Awards Thursday in Las Vegas, earning the top prize after a record-breaking ceremony that saw the Puerto Rican stepbrothers receive the 19th award of their career and the most awards ever in a single night.

The socially charged rap group made history before the show was over, winning its 18th award for song of the year for “Latinoamerica.” That broke the record for most awards previously held by 17-time-winner Juanes.

“Today, the music triumphed,” frontman Rene Perez Joglar said in Spanish.

In all, Calle 13 was up for 10 awards Thursday and took home all but one because they were nominated twice for album of the year for their work on Shakira’s “Sale el Sol.” The Caribbean group’s anti-establishment album “Entren Los Que Quieran” lent a political overtone to the annual awards show, with its lyrics that slam the White House and the Vatican while celebrating the joys of being poor and Latin American.

One of the most controversial songs, “Calma Pueblo,” won best alternative song, with its lyrics that call the Vatican the largest mafia in the world. The group also won producer of the year, best short-form music video and best tropical song for its ode to behaving badly, “Vamo’ A Portarnos Mal.” Those awards all came before the show started, during a pre-telecast ceremony.

Calle 13 later opened the show with an emotional rendition of its anthem “Latinoamerica” before going on to win best urban music album, best urban song, song of the year and record of the year.

“May this transport you to your roots, your streets … and may you feel it here in your heart,” Joglar said in Spanish before the rousing performance, dedicating the song to Latin Americans.

The group easily hogged the spotlight from the other nominees. Even Shakira, the Latin Recording Academy’s Person of the Year, came home with only one award for best female pop vocal album after Calle 13 swept the show.

“We know that we aren’t the ones who get played on the radio … but the people who don’t sell themselves for money and make real music,” said Joglar, who goes by the stage name Residente, speaking in Spanish after accepting the award for best urban song.

The other half of the duo, Eduardo Jose Cabra Martinez, noted that the internet 0has helped Calle 13 expand their audience, but lamented that many people in poor nations do not have computer access.

Joglar said he didn’t care about radio play, and recounted advice a famous musician once told him: “The day you are on the radio a lot, worry, because you are doing something wrong, and so we have listened to him,” Joglar said in Spanish.

Calle 13 has a long history of lacing social messages over bass-thumping beats and its latest album continued that tradition, riffing on the exploitation of dark-skinned workers and corrupt governments. Joglar said he hoped Thursday’s recognition would encourage other musicians to fight “the easy and what sells.”

Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation, said Calle 13’s political leanings had done little to hurt their standing among the academy members, and mused that the group could soon add to its two Grammy awards.

“Musicians are creative people who are not afraid of controversy and they speak their minds, they speak from the heart,” Portnow said backstage.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rican newcomer Sie7e took home a Grammy for best new artist. He performed his Spanglish love song “Tengo Tu Love” with Mexican-American rapper Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas and cited Calle 13 as an influence.

“Another one for Puerto Rico,” Sie7e cried in Spanish after accepting his gramophone trophy.

The awards show was a blend of genres and talents, as performers from nearly 100 countries gathered at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on the Las Vegas Strip for a night of Spanish pop, rock, salsa, rap and country. Crossover stars Sean Kingston, Usher and Demi Lovato were among the dozens of pop stars who shared the stage, along with Mexican rocker Alejandra Guzman, Puerto Rican rappers Wisin and Yandel and New York crooner Prince Royce. Award presenters included Erik Estrada, Zoe Saldana and Sofia Vergara.

The international lineup made for a Spanglish flair, with Vergara, whose Colombian accent is a staple joke on the hit TV series “Modern Family,” welcoming English viewers in her adopted tongue. Kermit the Frog also spoke in both Spanish and English, introducing Mexican band Intocable.

“Many frogs love Latino music because we get to hop around,” Kermit said.

Shakira, the youngest person to receive the academy’s prestigious Person of the Year recognition, dedicated the honor to her fellow stars. “With their voices and their music, they cure all our pains and make us forget our sorrows,” she said in Spanish.

Dressed in a sweeping pink gown topped with a sparkling corset, Shakira belted out the ballad “Antes de las Seis” on a fog-drenched stage decorated with flowering trees. She later returned with her quaking hips for a feisty performance of her reggeaton hit “Loca.”

Mexican rock legend Mana gave the first duet of the show, performing with Royce “Lluvia al Corazon” and “El Verdadero Amor Perdona” as the image of a beating heart adorned with thorns graced the stage.

“In my opinion, Mana is one of the most important groups in Latin music,” Royce later said backstage.

Mana went on to win best rock album, with frontman Fher Olvera proclaiming that rock lives on.

Pitbull and Marc Anthony also shared the stage, pumping out their bilingual club banger “Rain Over Me” as dozens of Las Vegas burlesque dancers shimmied under an indoor rain shower.

Wisin and Yandel were joined by Kingston on stage. They spit out three hits: “Estoy Enamorado,” “Fire Burning” and “Fever.”

Kingston said backstage that he didn’t understand what was being said at the show, but called himself a “huge fan of reggaeton,” or Spanish hip hop.

“I’ve dated a few Latin ladies so I understand a little bit, un poquito,” he said during the show. When it came to Calle 13, he said, “I don’t know his name, but he was real good.”


Associated Press writer Michelle Rindels contributed to this report.


Cristina Silva can be reached at https://twitter.com/cristymsilva.

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