Tradition, industry and contemporary edge met at the 26th annual BMI Latin Awards, with legendary Mexican singer/songwriter Mario Quintero of Los Tucanes de Tijuana receiving the BMI President’s Award; producer Sebastian Krys honored with the BMI Champion Award; and superstar Ozuna showing up to receive his Contemporary Latin Songwriter of the Year award for writing a record-breaking nine of the most-performed Latin songs of 2018, including “Ahora Dice,” “Criminal,” “El Farsante,” “Escápate Conmigo,” “La Modelo,” “La Rompe Corazones,” “Se Preparó,” “Te Boté (Remix)” and “Tu Foto.”
It was an evening of celebration, punctuated by Los Tucanes’ performance of danceable regional Mexican music. But it was also an evening for deeper thoughts.
Krys, who was honored for his work as a producer (Elvis Costello, Alejandro Sanz, Carlos Vives, La Santa Cecilia, Luis Fonsi and Enrique Iglesias, among many others) and a philanthropist through his Los Producers initiative — which raises money for multiple music education initiatives — asked songwriters to “dig deeper” in a time of short attention spans.
“You create the raw material on which our culture is based,” he said. “Most of our music does not reflect our truth. I challenge each of you to speak from your truth. We cannot allow popular music to become a version of Instagram. Some people say ‘this is what the labels want’ or ‘this is what the platforms want.’ But as Henry Ford said, if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. Be bold, be brave, be real influencers.”
He wasn’t the only one calling for action. BMI President & CEO Mike O’Neill, who hosted the evening alongside BMI Vice President of Creative, Latin Music Delia Orjuela, exhorted attendees to help support songwriters’ rights. “There are a lot of companies that are trying to devalue your music in Washington, D.C. Your voice is crucial,” he said.
Other winners of the evening included J Balvin, who won Contemporary Latin Song of the Year for “Mi Gente,” and Espinoza Paz, named Regional Mexican Songwriter of the Year for his hits “Ésta Es Tu Canción,” “Las Cosas No Se Hacen Asi?” and “Ojalá Que Me Olvides.” Omar Robles won Regional Mexican Song of the Year for “El Color de Tus Ojos.”
And while songwriters in attendance on Tuesday night ranged from Paz to DJ Luian, the big star of the night was Ozuna, who took the stage to accept each one of his nine awards — a record for the BMI Awards.
Another milestone was reached by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which won the Latin Publisher of the Year award for the fourth year in a row, with 13 of the most-performed songs of the year, including Maluma’s “Felices los Cuatro,” Shakira’s “Me Enamoré” and Luis Fonsi and Demi Lovato’s “Echame la Culpa.”
The final award of the evening was for Quintero, the first songwriter Orjuela signed to BMI when she joined the company nearly 20 years ago. Quintero, who has seen the fortunes of his Tucanes de Tijuana ebb and rise through the years, is in the midst of a major resurgence that includes an appearance at Coachella next month. On Tuesday night, his words of appreciation were mostly to his wife.
“I have few opportunities to recognize her,” he said, admitting he was nervous. “My wife. I call her mi cielo (my heaven). Thank you, mi cielo, for giving me the freedom I need. It’s important to say that when your partner gives you too much freedom, you can make mistakes. But when you give your partner the liberty they need to grow, it’s amazing. And it’s reciprocal.”