U.K. singer Sting and Bosnian lute player Edin Karamazov won one of three International awards at the 13th Cubadisco music trade fair in Havana, for their album "Songs From The Labyrinth" (Deutsche Grammaphon). Cubadisco is held this year between May 16-24 in dozens of venues across the capital.

Cuban orchestra director Leo Brouwer read out a thank-you letter from Sting sent from London, in which the Police vocalist said the award was "an unexpected honor." He stressed his "admiration for Cuban music and culture."

In his letter, Sting recalled that he "learned to dance properly" during a visit to Cuba years ago with his wife. "I remember the level of musical quality was extraordinary and inspiring," he said. "Music and art are the raw blood of Cuba."

Other International winners were Spain's Amparo Sánchez for the album "Seguiré Caminando" by her group Amparanoia, Canary Island singer Victor Rodríguez for his tribute album to the late Cuban singer Antonio Machín, "Un Restaurador De Sueños," and Puerto Rican guitarist Edwin Colón Zayas for his album "Reafirmación." Sánchez is currently recording her album "Tucson-Habana" in the Cuban capital.

Local winners included legendary 'timba' dance group Los Van Van with five awards for the album "Aquí El Que Baila Gana" (Egrem). The awards include best album, which was shared with ex-Buena Vista Social Club singer Omara Portuondo, with her album "Gracias" (Montuno).

This year's guest country at Cubadisco is Puerto Rico (although the U.S. has sovereignty) and the highlight will be a gala dedicated to Puerto Rico at the 5,000-capacity Karl Marx Theater on May 23.

Among Puerto Rican artists performing musical styles from the U.S.-associated state, such as la bomba, la plena, la danza, and el seis, will be Andy Montañez, Danny Rivera, Roy Brown, Chuchu Avellanet, Germán Wilkins, Edwin Colón Zayas, José Antonio López, Norma Salazar, Plenibom, Atabal, Así Somos, Miguel Zenon, Tito Auger, and Cuban band Klimax.

Cubadisco kicked off with a May 16 gala in the Karl Marx Theater with Van Van, Maraca, David Blanco, and Haydée Milanés, among others. It ends on May 24 at the same venue with a concert headlined by Cuba's Adalberto Alvarez y su Son, plus several Puerto Rican artists.

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