Little-Known Pacific Mambo Orchestra Takes Tropical GRAMMY From Marc Anthony, More

Christian Tumalan of Pacific Mambo Orchestra onstage during the 56th GRAMMY Awards Pre-Telecast at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.
Michael Buckner/WireImage

Kickstarter-funded debut album “Pacific Mambo Orchestra” wins Best Latin Tropical Album

The Pacific Mambo Orchestra, a San Francisco-based Latin big band, won last night’s GRAMMY for Best Tropical Latin Album, beating favorite Marc Anthony and other Latin music stars.

Soundscan has recorded sales of only 341 copies of the Pacific Mambo Orchestra’s self-titled debut. The band, which went on a national tour for the first time last fall, sent another 116 digital copies to its backers on Kickstarter, who provided $11,000 to record the self-produced album.

“We did everything in house,” Christian Tumalan, a classical and jazz-trained pianist originally from Mexico, told Billboard. “This GRAMMY is a victory not just for us but for independent artists everywhere. We want it to deliver hope to all of those artists in their home studios and garages. We’re independent and we made it happen.”

Tumalan, who founded the big band of 19 Bay Area-based Latin music veterans with trumpeter Steffan Kuehn, says that the win came after an aggressive campaign aimed at Recording Academy voters. Tumalan and Kuehn used the website Grammy365 to send Academy members their music and a “for your consideration” video.

“Nobody knew about Pacific Mambo Orchestra and we were aware we were competing with some of the biggest names in the Latin music industry,” Tumalan explained. “So we needed to have a more close connection with GRAMMY voters in the hopes that they would take a leap to listening to our record. We went to conferences, we talked to people, we reached out to people on Facebook and Twitter. It was a lot of conscious work.”

Marc Anthony’s "3.0," the bilingual singer’s return to salsa, has sold 169,000 albums, according to Nielsen Soundscan, and was No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart for six weeks. The single “Vivir Mi Vida” won the 2013 Latin GRAMMY for Recording of the Year. After his defeat during the pre-telecast, Anthony appeared on the Staples Center stage Sunday night together with Gloria Estefan to present the award for Best Pop Vocal Album to Bruno Mars' "Unorthodox Jukebox."

Also in the running for the Best Latin Tropical Album award were Colombian star Carlos Vives for “Corazón Profundo,” whose title track won Best Song at the Latin GRAMMYs, and “Salsa Giants,” produced by Latin GRAMMY Producer of the Year Sergio George and winner of the Latin GRAMMY for Best Salsa Album. Completing the nominee list was “Como Te Voy a Olvidar,” a critically-lauded tribute album to the popular vintage Mexican cumbia group Los Angeles Azules.