Latino singers rule 
 June 15, 2001
By Rito P. Asilo
Inquirer News Service

THE RESURGENCE of programs like "The Latin Jazz Special," hosted by Archie Lacson, over Rajah Broadcasting Network’s Hive Radio Café dzRJ 100.3 FM (Sundays, 10-12 midnight) further magnifies the omnipresence of Latino artists on-air and on the pop charts.


On the show, songs by Spanish-speaking performers from South America, Cuba and Spain are featured one after the other. In a country like the Philippines, whose roots include a rich Hispanic past, our predilection for these singers is really not much of a surprise.

But the influence of Latino songs even in countries like the United States, Italy, South Africa and Japan is proof of how much these songs and their interpreters have impressed music lovers around the world.

Among the songs we heard on the program were Mongo Santamaria’s "Watermelon Man," Selena’s "I Could Fall in Love," Tito Nieves’ cover of the Taylor Dayne hit, "I’ll Always Love You," and Marc Anthony’s "Una Vez Mas," among others.

"Perfidia," another Latino classic that had been interpreted by popular musicians like Nat "King" Cole, Ben E. King, Benny Goodman, Dave Brubeck, Tito Puente, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, Mantovani, Perez Prado, Trio Los Panchos, Paul Mauriat and Xavier Cugat, was sang by Vicky Carr.

These names are not unknown. Check out your parents’ or grandparents’ vinyl record collection and you will most likely see them.

The varied origins of these performers are truly remarkable.

Jazz luminaries

No other Cuban percussionist has reached more listeners (except perhaps Santana’s Armando Peraza) than Mongo Santamaria, the master conguero whose freewheeling Boogaloo music hugely influenced jazz luminaries Chick Corea and Hubert Laws.

Marc Anthony’s music fuses rock, merengue, mambo and salsa. He has created a niche for himself as one of the hottest salseros since 1993. He may have grown up in New York but his parents were both from Puerto Rico.

He started out writing songs for groups like Menudo and the Latin Rascals, before Salsa royalty Ruben Blades discovered that his talents went beyond composing.

He not only won the first-ever Latin Grammy Awards’ "Song of the Year" last year for "Dimelo" (this particular song was released and became popular in the Philippines in its English form, "I Need to Know"), but also the heart of former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres, after the latter gave up on Aga Muhlach, who himself married another former beauty queen, Charlene Gonzales, recently.

Charlene not only replaced Dayanara as host on "Eezy Dancing" but in Aga’s heart as well.

Dayanara herself successfully launched a recording career with her 1998 "Antifaz" album after deciding to leave the Philippines for good. We recently caught her on TV when she graced, along with her husband Marc, the recent Miss Universe competition held in Puerto Rico as one of the judges. She was introduced as Ms Dayanara Muniz, using her husband’s real family name.

Like Marc Anthony, 30-year-old multi-hyphenated artist Jennifer Lopez (1999’s "On the 6," 2001’s "J. Lo") was born in New York’s Bronx district but her parents have Puerto Rican roots. After starting out in critically acclaimed art house hits like Soderberg’s "Out of Sight" and her career-turning performance in "Selena," she is now the highest-paid Latina actress in Hollywood.

Similarly, Selena’s Tejano music crossed cultural boundaries but her ascent to the top was cut short by her tragic death in 1995, just after releasing her first English album, "Dreaming of You." Her death spawned a reaction not unlike those of John Lennon’s, Marilyn Monroe’s or Elvis Presley’s.

The cult phenomenon didn’t end there. Just this year alone, three albums by--and recorded as a tribute for--her were released: "The Last Concert," "Canta Como Selena y Gloria Estefan," and "Superpistas."

Of course, the success of Cuba’s Gloria Estefan pre-dated the Latin pop explosion by a decade. It was headed by Puerto Rico’s extremely charismatic Ricky Martin in the late ‘90s, and then by Filipino-Spanish Enrique Iglesias.


The list would be incomplete without mentioning the Salsa King, Ruben Blades, and his cheerful, earthy but politically tinged jazz groove. Blades is known for substituting contemporary arrangements for the usual horns, and Latin percussion sections with synthesizers and drums.

But if there’s one Latino singer who can compete with Ricky Martin for the kind of adulation his fans accord him, it is unquestionably Mexican superstar Luis Miguel for his romantic and sensual interpretations.

He is loved for his well-produced albums and strong live performances. One of Gary Valenciano’s songs ("Dinggin ang Tawag Mo") was translated from a popular Luis Miguel ditty.

To date, he is the only Latino artist to have two Spanish-language albums (1991’s "Romance" and 1994’s "Segundo Romance") go platinum. He has received three Grammies in the US. His international stardom was heavily recognized last year by the First Annual Latin Grammy Awards with trophies for Best Male Vocal Performance and Best Pop Album.

We have never heard a better, more haunting version of "Eres Tu" (culled from his 1987 album, "Soy Como Quiero Ser"). His rendition of classic love ballads from Brazil, Argentina and Mexico are the best you will ever hear from a Latino artist.


Then there’s Tito Nieves’ 14-track 1997 album, "I Like It Like That," which contains covers of popular songs arranged in a distinctive salsa beat.

(Imagine Anita Baker’s "You Bring Me Joy," Paul Williams’ "I Won’t Last A Day Without You," Bozz Scaggs’ "Heart of Mine" or the Patti Austin-James Ingram duet, "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" with a Latin beat).

It still enjoys airplay even in jazz stations, despite his having released two albums in 2001 ("Yo Quiero Cantar" and "En Otra Onda").

Of course, there’s the legendary Spanish crooner, Julio Iglesias. Or, those very visible telenovela stars-cum-singers, Mexico’s Thalia, Venezuela’s Fernando Carillo and Mexico’s Eduardo Capetillo--but that’s another article altogether.

Now, if you think you are too young to listen to these exotic Latino songs, or just sick of being hopelessly romantic and seemingly getting nowhere being one, why not recall how safe and emotionally secure it was to be a child--free from all the emotional baggage that most adults suffer through and endure?

Yes, we have the perfect radio show for you: "Magandang Tanghali, Bata," hosted by Ate Tina (M-F, 1-2 p.m., 1566 kHz) on the AM band’s Radio Air Force.


On the show, you will hear songs that you learned as a carefree, worry-free child: "Where Have You Been, Billy Boy?," "B-I-N-G-O," "`Round The Mulberry Bush," "Do The Hokey Pokey," "Old McDonald Had A Farm" or "Popeye The Sailor Man." We realized that we have either already forgotten the lyrics of these songs or have been mouthing the wrong lyrics all along!

Ate Tina offers simple reminders to kids (garbage and laundry management; helping Mom and yaya with house chores), and tells fairy tales or children’s stories on the show.

It was "Little Red Riding Hood" when we tuned in, and despite our not being five years old anymore, we still enjoyed listening to the exciting adventure with the wolf. But we suggest that a short moral should be explained by the host after telling the story, so that it can also be a learning experience for its listeners--for the children and the young at heart.


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