LOS ANGELES – It seemed like a rerun of the 2002 Latin Grammys (search). Once again, Spanish heartthrob singer Alejandro Sanz (search) dominated the show — only this time, Sanz didn't show up to collect his trophies.
The absent crooner won a leading four awards Wednesday: male pop vocal album and album of the year for "No Es Lo Mismo" (search) and took home song of the year and record of the year for writing and performing the album's title track.
The perennial favorite, who has one regular Grammy and received three Latin Grammys in 2002 and four in 2001, was on tour. Missing its big winner of the night was a blow to the fifth annual Latin Grammy telecast, which has struggled to find an audience on U.S. TV.
Brazilian jazz songstress Maria Rita (search) collected two awards at the ceremony, which was filled with performances aimed at uniting Spanish- and Portugese-language music with the flash and sizzle of American pop.
As a result, there were several cross-cultural performances, including a pairing of Spanish flamenco-singer David Bisbal with pop princess Jessica Simpson (search) that kicked off the broadcast. After a flashy opening dance number, Bisbal joined Simpson for a romantic power-ballad — she in English, he in Spanish — as they hung in each other's arms and sang face to face.
Other highlights included a collaboration featuring the hard-rock band Incubus and the Mexican rock/hip-hop group Cafe Tacuba, which won best alternative music album for "Cuatro Caminos."
Many household names in Latin music took a back seat this year to such multiple nominees as Rita and Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes, who totaled four bids each. Rita won best new artist and best musica popular brasileira album for "Maria Rita," which was also nominated for album of the year.
"I had no expectations coming in today," she said backstage, clutching her two Grammys. "And I'm holding two of these!
"When I was little I used to watch the Grammys with the family and we all knew how important it was to all the artists involved. I'm one of you now," Rita told the audience after winning her second honor.
Rita comes from a rich musical heritage. Her mother was Elis Regina, a Brazilian pop music superstar who died in 1982 at age 36, when Rita was barely 4. Her father is Brazilian pianist/arranger Cesar Camargo Mariano.
Valdes won for his collaboration with flamenco singer Diego El Cigala in the traditional tropical album category for "Lagrimas Negras."
The Cuban exile said he would not use his win as a means to comment on his homeland's politics.
"The music is art. My politics are private," the 85-year-old said backstage. "It's been 24 years since I go to my country."
Mexican-born rocker Carlos Santana, who was named Latin Grammy person of the year on Monday, teamed with Tex-Mex brothers Los Lonely Boys for a stirring rendition of the late Ritchie Valens' 1950s Spanish rock 'n' roll anthem "La Bamba."
Backstage, he praised the Los Angeles musicians for carrying on the Latino rock tradition established by performers like Valens.
"These brothers are so for real they don't even know how to lip-synch," Santana said.
Songwriter Milton Nascimento won the best Brazilian song award for writing her song "A Festa," which had been nominated for record of the year.
Among other winners, Jimmy Gonzalez and Grupo Mazz won best Tejano album for "Live En El Valle," while Los Tigres Del Norte collected the Norteno album prize for "Pacto De Sangre."
Skank's "Cosmotron" was picked best Brazilian rock album, classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma's "Obrigado Brazil: Live in Concert" collected best instrumental album, and the late Celia Cruz's "Regalo Del Alma" received best salsa album.
Robi Draco Rosa won best music video for "Mas y Mas," while Rosario's "Del Mel Colores" was honored as best female vocal album. Vincento and Alejandro Fernandez earned best Ranchero album for "En Vivos Juntos Por Ultima Vez."