The 2009 Billboard Latin Music Awards drew many celebrities and performers from the Latin music industry to the University of Miami’s BankUnited Center on April 23.
The Miami Hurricane was granted an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the event, and found many things different in the familiar venue. In place of the concrete sidewalk, a red carpet was populated with cameras. An elaborate stage, complete with mosh pit, filled a good portion of the basketball court. A total of 15 cameras were spread throughout the arena, and a teleprompter quickly scrolled in Spanish. Trucks filled the back parking lot of the center, each housing intricate film equipment to broadcast the awards show. Luxurious motor homes lined another section of the lot, where stars would lounge before the show. There was a palpable sense of anticipation and excitement in the air.
Broadcast live by Telemundo, the awards show began with an electrifying performance by Akon, Wisin and Yandel, and Aventura, singing a new, unreleased song, “It’s All Up to You.” With a driving beat and mechanized vocal effects, the song seemed a perfect representation of Miami – a mix of old and new, of Spanish and English.
“I thought the opening number from these guys really set the tone for the night,” said Ken Wilkey, the senior vice president of Telemundo Network Broadcast Operations. “The performance was just what the show needed for an outstanding opening number.”
The rest of the show consisted of award presentations with musical acts interspersed. Winners were determined by sales and radio air-play during a period of one year and were honored as the most popular acts in Latin music.
“[All the artists] are winners,” stated Ephrem J, a singer from Curacao in attendance at the event. “They all work hard at what they do.”
By the end of the night, the top winners included Flex, a pop-reggaeton singer who took home eight awards, and UM alumnus Enrique Iglesias, who received six. Mexican rock band Maná and Aventura, a R&B-bachata group, both received four awards.
Members of the band Maná also presented Carlos Santana with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Santana is a legend,” said Wilkey. “He is a gentleman, a humanitarian, and has accomplished so much in his life. I believe part of his success comes from the fact that he keeps reinventing himself by performing with new artists.”
Later in the show, Santana performed with Maná, his guitar wailing as usual.
“My favorite performance was Santana’s, since I grew up listening to him,” said UM freshman Stephanie Munarriz. “He’s just amazing.”
Daddy Yankee, Paulina Rubio, Reik, Flex, Ruben Blades and others also performed at the event.
“The show was really good,” said Natassia Michelsen, of Michelsen Advertising. “It is outstanding compared to all the ones I have been to, and I have been attending awards shows like this for six years now.”
Munarriz shared similar sentiments.
“I loved the show because I got to see many of my favorite artists,” she said.
“The Latin Billboard Awards are very important because they recognize Latin artists worldwide,” Munarriz explained. “Being an international student myself, I think students should take notice of awards like these to expand their views on music.”