LAS VEGAS – Colombian reggaeton sensation J Balvin opened the 16th annual Latin Grammy awards with a medley of “Ginza” and “Lean On,” and was joined onstage by Danish electronic singer MO.
A while later Puerto Rican reggaeton star Nicky Jam was joined by Jamaican singer Omi and then Fifth Harmony joined Colombian Maluma onstage for “Sin Contrato.”
And, certainly, there was Will Smith’s highly anticipated return to the music scene, which he chose to do alongside Colombian group Bomba Estereo.
During Thursday’s telecast of the biggest night in Latin music, several performances showcased how the once thick divide between traditional mainstream music and Latin music is blurring, as U.S. artists, producers and record labels artists are increasingly looking south of the border for new sounds, new tastes and a massive fan base.
“[This collaboration] is a sign of how music and culture in Latin America is every day much stronger and how the industry in the U.S. and Europe is increasingly looking toward Latin America,” Bomba Estero founder Simon Mejia told Fox News Latino ahead of their performance.
“Will Smith is an example of this,” he added.
Balvin teaming up with MO is not his first collaboration with a non-Latino star -- he recently released a bilingual remix of Justin Bieber’s megahit “Sorry.”
Speaking to reporters backstage, Balvin said his collaboration with the Canadian pop singer came by very naturally after they met at the Special Olympics in Los Angeles this summer. They started talking and hit it off right away, he said.
Their spontaneous meeting at the Olympics quickly led to their remix which captivated a cross-section of fans all over the world.
Established artists like Pitbul have been collaborating with anglo performers for years. The Cuban-American rapper has famously shared the stage with artists like Ke$ha, Ne-Yo, Lil Wayne, Kelly Rowaland and Christina Aguilera, and last year Wisin teamed up with Jennifer Lopez, who while Latina is bigger in the mainstream American audience, for “Adrenalina.”
Omi, who performed his hit song “Cheerleader” with Nicky Jam on Thursday night, told FNL that it meant a lot to him to be part of the Latin Grammys because of the growing fan base, though he joked that Smith attending also got him on the first flight to Las Vegas.
“The Latin market is a big market and not only are they very musical, they have a huge fan base, so it’s good for business,” Omi said when prompted about the growing number of collaborations. “Apart from that, Latin people are super musical, they party and love music. For me that’s a win-win anywhere.”
Alberto Slezynger, lead singer of the Venezuelan band “Daiquiri,” said that the appeal of Latin music is steadily growing in the American general market.
“I think that the influence in American music is evident,” he told FNL on the red carpet. “All the new artists are coming out doing crossovers and singing in English and Spanish.”