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NPR's Alt.Latino podcast hosts share highlights from the Latin Grammys

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

What happens in Vegas is the subject of our next conversation.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TITI ME PREGUNTO")

BAD BUNNY: (Singing in Spanish).

SHAPIRO: Puerto Rican megastar Bad Bunny was the biggest name among many winners of last night's Latin Grammy Awards in Las Vegas. Eighty awards categories expand international pop hits to traditional folkloric music from around the Spanish-speaking world.

Felix Contreras and Anamaria Sayre co-host the Alt.Latino podcast from NPR Music. They were at the Latin Grammys. Felix and Ana, good to have you here.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: What's up, Ari?

ANAMARIA SAYRE, BYLINE: Thanks for having us.

SHAPIRO: All right. So it was a big night for Bad Bunny, as we said. Who else were the big winners?

CONTRERAS: You know, that's an interesting question because Bad Bunny, who was not here last night, he had the most nominations with 10, and he won five. And the Spanish vocalist Rosalia had eight nominations and won four, including the top award for album of the year for her genre-busting album "Motomami." But it was Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler who actually won the most awards last night with seven.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOCARTE")

JORGE DREXLER: (Singing in Spanish).

CONTRERAS: And I say it's interesting because while Bad Bunny pretty much dominates Latin music in terms of sales and popularity and Rosalia is literally changing the sound of Latin music, Jorge Drexler is what I call the poet laureate of Latin America because his songwriting is so literate, almost to the point of being cerebral. And his win reflects how much he is admired and respected within the academy.

SHAPIRO: So a huge variety just among those three. But I love that in the category of best new artist, history was made. There was a tie, and the two people who tied also kind of could not be more different from each other.

SAYRE: Yeah. I think that the academy really took a diversity of sound to heart this year in naming a 25-year-old newcomer and a 95-year-old newcomer as the two best new artists of the year.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TE GUARDO")

SILVANA ESTRADA: (Singing in Spanish).

SAYRE: Mexico's Silvana Estrada is the younger. We've featured her on our podcast, Alt.Latino. She did an amazing Tiny Desk last year for us. She's definitely a favorite. And, God, she has this incredible vocal ability paired with some beautiful songwriting that we love to hear. Well deserved.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TE GUARDO")

ESTRADA: (Singing in Spanish).

SAYRE: Ninety-five-year-old Angela Alvarez is a Cuban American from Florida. She really took the idea that age is just a number to heart in deciding to go back and revisit her passion for music and have her grandson actually put her in a studio to record the boleros she'd been singing around the house for years.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MI GRAN AMOR")

ANGELA ALVAREZ: (Singing in Spanish).

SAYRE: Their shared win was an incredible emotional point from the night. I mean, people really went wild for that one.

SHAPIRO: Wow. All right. Apart from the winners, give us the vibe. What was the evening like?

SAYRE: Oh, man. OK. So chisme of the night - or gossip - is Rosalia and Rauw Alejandro coming in like a storm on the red carpet. This was a really visible night for them as a couple. I mean, I remember last year in the press room when Rauw came in with his victory, one of the journalists asked about Rosalia, and everyone was like, oh, my God, I can't believe he just asked about Rosalia. And now, I mean, they were posting on Instagram calling each other loves of their lives, talking about a shared win for them in terms of the amount of nominations that they shared together. So they're going super public with their relationship this year, which is kind of shaking up the whole Latin music world 'cause talk about a power couple.

SHAPIRO: How big are the Latin Grammy Awards right now? I mean, the market for Latin music has sort of exploded, and the boundaries have become more and more blurry, right?

CONTRERAS: It's really incredible, Ari. And the numbers say it all. And according to the industry group the Recording Industry Association of America, which tracks sales and all that stuff, sales for Latin music this year are - even at the six-month point, were over $500 million and projected to be over a billion by the end of the year. That's billion with a B. That's a 23% increase over last year. And that double-digit growth really surpasses any other form of music. And almost all of that came from streaming - 97%, which means that the audience is young and uses technology to listen to their favorite music, right?

Compare that to 1989, when the Latin Grammys started. Sales were just $50 million, and back then, the industry thought that was a lot of money. The growth is so much more than anyone ever could have imagined or expected, and it's just blowing people's minds all over the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DESPUES DE LA PLAYA")

BAD BUNNY: (Speaking Spanish).

SHAPIRO: Do the winners from last night tell you anything about where Latin music is headed right now?

SAYRE: Yeah. I mean, I think there are a few big takeaways, honestly, that really stood out to me with both the winners and the performances. I mean, we talked earlier about Bad Bunny and the fact that, undoubtedly, this has been a monumental year for him with a nomination for album of the year with the other Grammys. So I think there was an expectation that he was going to come in and take a lot of wins away. But ultimately, like we said, the Academy went with, you know, more legacied artists like Jorge Drexler. And so it's definitely an interesting spotlight on attention that's existed with the Latin Grammys for a number of years. Another thing we're seeing is, again, that amazing crossover between the, quote, "Latin music world" and then the general Grammys and academy.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TACONES ROJOS")

SEBASTIAN YATRA: (Singing in Spanish).

SAYRE: We saw artists like John Legend performing last night. We saw Christina Aguilera performing with Christian Nodal, a Mexican regional artist. And so we've never seen something so specific in that you have John Legend performing onstage in English at the Latin Grammys. I mean, that's more than just a crossover of a Latin artist into, quote, "the mainstream music world." But now we're really very visibly seeing these American artists that are being very present on the Latin music stage.

SHAPIRO: Have you got a favorite moment from last night?

CONTRERAS: I had a favorite moment in what I call one of the down-ballot categories. In the folk category, it was a great album called "Ancestros Sinfonico." It's going to be my favorite album of the year. It's by a gentleman by the name of X Alfonso and his family, the Alfonso family from Havana, Cuba.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AGUANILEO OGGUN (OGGUN)")

X ALFONSO AND EME ALFONSO: (Singing in non-English language).

CONTRERAS: It's symphonic interpretations of Santeria music. It's a fabulous record. And I was just so happy that they won in their category last night against a formidable category. There were lots of great records in that category, but they walked away with the win, and I was very, very happy about that one.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AGUANILEO OGGUN (OGGUN)")

X ALFONSO AND EME ALFONSO: (Singing in non-English language).

SHAPIRO: NPR Music's Felix Contreras and Anamaria Sayre are the hosts of the Alt.Latino podcast, a weekly look at Latino arts and culture. And you can see their coverage on the new Alt.Latino TikTok channel. Thank you both.

CONTRERAS: Thank you, Ari.

SAYRE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AGUANILEO OGGUN (OGGUN)")

X ALFONSO AND EME ALFONSO: (Singing in non-English language). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.
Anamaria Artemisa Sayre is co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.