The thread that connects the past and present of Latin music was in full display March 18 at the annual ASCAP Latin Music Awards, with legendary musicians Fania All-Stars sharing the stage with today’s stars in what became one of those once-in-a-lifetime musical moments.
“I want to thank these boys for being with me so many years,” said 78-year-old Fania founder and bandleader Johnny Pacheco, looking frail but decidedly in control when the band took the stage to accept ASCAP’s Heritage award. “To me, this is the best salsa orchestra in existence.”
And Fania -- performing with a roster that included pianist Larry Harlow (also known as “El Judio Maravilloso"), Ismael Miranda, Isidro Infante, Bobby Valentín, Roberto Roena and with Ruben Blades and Victor Manuelle also onstage soneando (doing vocal improvisation) -- proceeded to demonstrate just that, playing a rousing, big-sound, dazzling set that got the audience (not surprisingly) to its feet.
“These boys are playing in the same key they did 40 years ago,” said a proud Pachecho.
Daddy Yankee, the other special honoree of the evening -- who won Song of the year for “Limbo” and was also fetted with ASCAP’s Voice of Music award -- didn’t miss a beat. Earlier in the evening, he looked visibly emotional when he accepted his award and addressed the crowd in general and his fellow musicians in particular.
“It’s such an honor to be here. For me everything began as a young guy in Santurce, Puerto Rico in the 90s. I still have that passion in my heart. La Fania, you’re my heroes. Thank you, and all my respect to you,” he said.
Yankee was not alone in thanking past legends for making his present a reality.
“I haven’t written any song that comes close to even 10% of anything Ruben Blades has written,” said Colombian Andres Castro, who shared the Songwriter of the Year award with Romeo Santos (who was on tour but sent a video greeting).
And salsa star Victor Manuelle, who together with ASCAP president/chairman Paul Williams presented the Heritage award to Fania, not only performed with the group, but is taking things a step further.
A songwriter and producer himself, Manuelle is currently producing Ismael Miranda’s new CD, in what will be his first full-length production. “When I first started as a back-up singer in Puerto Rico, it was with Ismael Miranda. Now, I’ll produce for him.”
Held in New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom, the awards celebrated the most-performed songs, publishers and composers of 2013, with Andrés Castro and Romeo Santos sharing the Songwriter of the Year award, Sony/ATV winning publisher of the year and Mayimba Music winning Independent Publisher of the year. Daddy Yankee’s “Limbo” was awarded Song of the Year.