Three Latin acts representing wildly different musical styles — Argentina’s Fito Páez, Colombia’s Grupo Niche and Mexico’s Natalia LaFourcade — were the early winners for the Latin categories at Sunday’s (March 14) Grammy Awards.
For veterans Páez and Grupo Niche, who’ve been making music for literally decades, this was their first-ever Grammy, and their joy was palpable in acceptance speeches from their respective countries.
“Thank you to my war team! It’s an incredible hour for me. I’m so nervous,” said Páez, whose La conquista del espacio won in the heavily contested best Latin rock or alternative album field, beating out Bajofondo’s Aura and Lido Pimienta’s Miss Colombia (Pimienta also performed beautifully in the Grammy Premiere Ceremony).
“I was very nervous,” Páez told Billboard over the phone minutes later. “There’s different music ‘schools’ in the world. I grew up with the American school,” added Páez, one of the great pioneers of melodic Argentine rock that bears British and American influences.
“So to have that school give you a pat on the back is a great honor. A great honor that exceeds the award itself. It’s as if the entire country had enveloped me in its arms.”
For Grupo Niche, perhaps Colombia’s most emblematic and symbolic salsa band, the win was fraught with emotion. The group, founded in Cali 40 years ago, won in the best tropical album category for 40, an album that pays homage both to its anniversary and to its late founder, Jairo Varela, who died in 2012.
“It’s the first album we recorded that doesn’t include Jairo’s songs,” said producer, composer and arranger José Aguirre, who spoke with Billboard on the phone from Miami after the win. “It was a risky bet. But if I can give this album a name, it would be ‘respect.’ Everything in it, I did thinking about Jairo: the arrangements, the production, the composition. There isn’t a second in the album where he’s not there. Fans wanted the group to record new music, but to preserve the sound. This wasn’t about me. It’s about Grupo Niche.”
In the also highly contested best regional Mexican music album, the winner was Natalia Lafourcade for Un canto por México, Vol. 1, an homage to Mexican traditional sounds. Lafourcade had previously won a Grammy in the best Latin rock, urban or alternative category for Hasta la raíz in 2016.
The best Latin pop or urban album category, meanwhile, wasn’t awarded at the premiere ceremony, leading to speculation that the winner may be Bad Bunny, who is performing at Sunday night’s primetime broadcast. But of course, nothing is ever certain when it comes to the Grammys.
Another early Latin winner in a non-Latin category was Kali Uchis, the featured artist on Kaytranada’s “10%,” which won the Grammy for best dance recording.
The Latin category awards were announced by comedian Bill Burr, who at one point quipped: “All the feminists must have been saying, ‘What is this white male doing this Latino stuff?’” Not to worry, Bill. Latins do have a sense of humor too.
The 63rd annual Grammy Awards will air live on Sunday (March 14) at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS, Paramount+ and Grammy.com. Online viewers can also stream CBS with free trials on fuboTV and Sling TV. (Billboard may receive affiliate commission through links on our site.)