Yesterday at the Billboard Latin Music Conference in Miami, performers at the happy-hour Mas y Mas Musica showcase presented slick, TV-ready packages. This made the artists on the bill at a later evening showcase, presented by BMI, Peer Music, and Sony Latin, stand in stark relief. Commanding the intimate Miami Design District venue The Stage, acts like Kat Dahlia, Niña Dioz, and a Band of Bitches came off raw, organic, and ready to grab the industry by the throat.
Cuban-American singer/songwriter Dahlia said she was elated to be part of a showcase that's part of this week's Billboard Latin Conference and Awards. "It's a bit surreal," says the entertainer who performed to a packed house of fans. Dahlia, who's based in Miami, unsurprisingly drew a big hometown industry crowd. Studio heavyweights like producer Carlos Bedoya and composer Elsten Torres, who's currently working with Ricky Martin and Luis Fonsi, took a break from the grind check her out.
Rather than singing over the tightly produced, R&B style backing track for her current radio heatseeker "Gangsta," she performed backed just by acoustic guitar and percussion, showing off almost jazzy vocal chops.
For Karina Puente, national promotion director at Sony Music Entertainment, this week is an opportunity to celebrate the label's many projects, from Dahlia's success on the Billboard charts to singer/songwriter Kany Garcia's appearance on the "Latin's Leading Ladies" panel at the Billboard Latin Conference & Awards, scheduled to take place Wednesday afternoon. This week is about the best of Latin music as seen through the prism of industry, but it's always the "good music" that leaves a lasting impression with fans, says Puente.
"Good music" at this showcase largely meant organic, live bands and emotive singing, like that of Rio Roma, a Mexican soft rock act led by siblings Jose Luis and Raul Ortega. After their performance they were excited to talk about their new projects including a new album that's in the works.
Known for writing music for some of Latin music's best known names such as Alejandra Guzman, the brothers are now expanding their reach as artists in the U.S. "The goal is to find more audiences beyond Mexico," says Jose Luis, who adds that Rio Roma's sound is rooted in pop romantic ballads with a nod to '70s and '80s music. "We recorded our new album in Italy and have a distinct sound, music that also had a European vibe." The Ortega brothers, who have in recent years built up a strong touring schedule, are taking advantage of their trip to Miami this week to work on new music with Guzman. "We're very fortunate that recording acts we've worked with have been supportive of us as artists," Jose Luis said.
Monterrey native Niña Dioz, who is part of a new school of female MCs, also performed at the showcase and is in Miami this week to introduce her music in anticipation of her new album Indestructible, which goes on sale on iTunes on April 30. The new project introduces music from singer/songwriter Ximena Sariñana and producer Toy Selectah, among others.
Backed by a guitarist, drummer, and especially nimble-fingered bassist, Dioz and her spitfire rhyming fired up the crowd, who wound up happily playing call-and-response with the artist over her song "Lola."
And for those who stuck around till the later hours, fellow Mexicans a Band of Bitches delivered a similarly funky performance. Never mind the quintet'ss creepy latex burn victim masks. It only distracted from an infectious, completely danceable global sound, drawing heavily from funk and ska as it happily veered out into left field.