Natalia LaFourcarde is tiny — barely 5 feet tall. But on Nov 19 during the 16th annual Latin Grammys pre-telecast, she was mighty, taking home three early awards, including best engineered album (although technically that award goes to her engineering team) and best alternative music album for Hasta la Raíz (Down to the Roots), and best alternative song for “Hasta la raíz,” co-written with Leonel García.
“I want to dedicate this song to Mexico, to our roots and our origins,” said LaFourcade when she picked up her best alternative song Latin Grammy alongside García. “This is the album I’ve most enjoyed doing. We weren’t in a rush.”
LaFourcade, one of the leading nominees of the evening with five nods — second only to García — wasn’t the only big early winner.
Veteran merengue star Juan Luis Guerra early on picked up two of the most important awards of the evening: best contemporary tropical album, for Todo tiene su hora, and best tropical song for “Tus besos.”
“Thanks to my musicians for working so hard with me,” said Guerra, who is a devout Christian. “And of course to Jesus, my Lord and Savior. He gives me all the inspiration to create my music.”
The pre-telecast, billed this year as the Premiere Awards, took place at the KA Theater in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. There, most of the 48 Latin Grammy Awards were doled out before a small, intimate audience.
Beside Guerra and LaFourcade, there were other big acts on hand to collect their awards, and Mexican star Pedro Fernandez, who won best ranchero album for Acaríciame el corazón, exhorted the small audience to show their appreciation.
“I want to hear that applause. It’s not easy to make an album!” he shouted good-naturedly, although much applause was spontaneously given to Colombian trio Chocquibtown, who won Best tropical fusion album for El Mismo.
“We come from a very small place,” said member Tostao, referring to their impoverished home state of Chocó. “We work very hard to make our dreams come true.”
Other early winners included the videos for Calle 13‘s “Ojos Color Sol” — which features Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal — and Juanes‘ “Loco de Amor, La Historia,” which won best short form video and best long from video, respectively.
Both were coincidentally directed by Puerto Rico’s Kacho Lopez and produced by Tristiana Lopez.
Alex Cuba won for best singer/songwriter album for Healer and veteran Ruben Blades, who, with Roberto Delgado & Orchestra, won best salsa album for his independently produced and released Son de Panamá.
Cuba was also present in the Best traditional tropical album, Tributo a los compadres, no quiero llanto, by Dominican sonero Jose Alberto “El Canario” with Septeto Santiaguero. The set was recorded at Egrem’s studios in Havana.
Best rock album went to Colombian trio Diamante Eléctrico for their independently-produced B.
There were tears of joy; Alex Cuba cried when he dedicated his win to his wife Sara, who has a song bearing her name in the album. And there were also moments of sadness.
Sebastian Krys, who won producer of the year for his work with multiple acts, including Alejandro Sanz’s multi-nominated album Sirope, dedicated his award to beloved Latin producer, songwriter and engineer Balta Hinojosa, who died last year of leukemia.
“We are all very fortunate to be here, doing what we do,” said Krys, accepting the award.