Dressed in his signature black suit, sweat streaming down his face, Pitbull paused for a moment during his set at Calibash 2015 and made a declaration.
“L.A. is my number one market,” he told the howling crowd at Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Saturday (Jan. 24). The sold-out audience had gathered for Calibash, an annual concert billed as “the leading urban Latin music festival in the world.”
The Cuban-American rapper’s acknowledgement revealed a strong similarity in the evening’s diverse group of artists: they all desire to connect with fans in America’s rapidly expanding Latino market, where a new generation is gaining broader economic reach. It was that core audience that cheered on the many genre stars who performed at Calibash’s eighth year, including the Colombian crooner Carlos Vives, the Puerto Rican recording artist Tego Calderon, the reggaeton singer Wisin and the lyrical master Don Omar.
The charm and familiarity of the tried-and-true acts clearly invigorated longtime fans, but a new generation of artists made their presence felt, too. Highlights included the L.A. native Becky G, the pop rapper Maluma, the Mexican pop DJ trio 3BallMTY and the rap act Farruko, who each earned plenty of smartphone shots from their young fans. Becky G and Maluma, who had previously collaborated on the song “La Temperatura,” performed together again during Maluma’s set. Collaborations like these have made Calibash one of the year’s most buzzed-about area festivals.
Presented by SBS Entertainment, AEG Live and Mega 96.3, the show also featured spirited performances by the Puerto Rican duo Plan B, the reggaeton artist J Alvarez and the Cuban group Gente de Zona, who are known for collaborating on “Bailando” with Enrique Iglesias.
It was also a night to celebrate singer/songwriters like Vives, who has long shined in ballads such as “Volví a Nacer” and the upbeat “El Mar de Sus Ojos.” The latter featured the Afro-Colombian hip-hop group ChocQuibTown, who joined Vives onstage for the song. They were a lively lead-in for Pitbull, who closed the show with a sampling of his biggest hits, including “Don’t Stop the Party.”