Colombian singer Juanes sweeps Latin Grammy awards

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Colombian rock singer Juanes swept the Latin Grammys on Thursday, tying up the top three categories for work from his album “La Vida ... Es Un Ratico.”

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Houston, which has a large Hispanic population, hosted the Latin Grammys with nominations embracing performers from Spain to Brazil and recognizing music as diverse as samba, alternative rock and tropical.

Much of the spotlight at the ninth annual event stayed on the black-clad Juanes, who goes by his single nickname. A darling of the Latin Grammy academy, Juanes won five awards, bringing his career total to 17 -- a record.

Juanes won for top record, top album and song of the year for his album, with a title that translates to “life is but a little moment.”

“I’m happy with life, music, God, the academy,” said Juanes, who the Houston Chronicle dubbed as “Latin America’s answer to Bono,” the activist frontman of Irish rock band U2, for the Colombian’s pursuit of causes like land mine victims.

Singer-songwriter Kany Garcia of Puerto Rico, 25, won best new artist and for work from best female pop vocal album for her 2007 work, “Cualquier Dia.”

Earlier in the week singer Gloria Estefan was named the Latin Grammy artist of 2008 -- the first woman to win the award. Estefan was one of the first Latin singers to break into the popular U.S. music scene during the 1980s with the Miami Sound Machine.

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Estefan praised Houston for its “great energy” and recalled -- seemingly fondly -- a performance in the fourth-largest U.S. city in 2004 when a male fan tried to pick her up and carry her offstage.

Houston’s economy -- which had been shielded by high crude oil prices from broader U.S. financial woes but is now facing the strain of a plummeting oil market -- could see an extra $25 million from the event, city officials said.

The event was broadcast live on the television network Univision, almost entirely in Spanish.

Mexican rock band Cafe Tacvba, which has been compared to the alt-rock band Radiohead, entered the evening with six nominations -- more than Juanes. The band went on to win two awards, including best rock song for “Esta Vez,” a track from its rock concept album “Sino.”

Faced backstage by reporters, many performers were eager to discuss the election of Barack Obama as the next U.S. president.

Early in the show, John Legend and Juanes sang “If You Are Out There,” a song featured in some of Obama’s campaign appearances.

“The timing is divine,” R&B artist Legend told reporters, admitting that he had not sang in Spanish before, and that Juanes had helped him with his pronunciation. Juanes told reporters he would have voted for Obama if he was a U.S. citizen.

Editing by Mohammad Zargham