Latin Music Poised for Growth

Pace Quickens For Two Record Labels Serving Hispanic Christians
by Beau Black

Last year, amidst the flurry of attention surrounding the popularity of artists like Christina Aguilera, Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez, a journalist commented to Lopez that it seemed like a good time to be Latin. "It's always a good time to be Latin," Lopez replied.

During the past couple of years it has been very, very good to be Latin as somewhat of a Latin music invasion has occurred, notably illustrated in last year's formation of the Latin Grammys. Then there's the recently released federal census information on the growth of the Latino population in the United States. The numbers suggest the group could soon surpass African-Americans as the largest minority group.

Enter two Christian labels that see an under-developed Hispanic market - an opportunity to serve Latin-flavored pop music to consumers the Christian music industry is not consistently reaching. One Voice Records and Atlantic Records are moving to be more intentional in the next few months, and in doing so will further diversify Christian music's sound.

Historically, the bulk of Christian music targeting Hispanics has come from acts re-recording their English music in Spanish. Crystal Lewis, Fernando Ortega, Steve Green, Margaret Becker and The Katinas are among those who havee made such contributions. Recently acts like Jaci Velasquez and Salvador have taken that initiative a bit further, recording some original music for the Latin market.

Leading the effort in reaching the Latin audience is Miami-based One Voice Records (www.one-voice.com) with an artist roster that includes Freddie Colloca, Ileana Garces and Alvaro Lopez, all of whom have already released albums in Spanish and English.

"We've been trying for years, and it's not until now that anyone's paid attention," said One Voice's Jose Garces Jr. "I think it's a move of the Lord combined with markets and the census - it's God's timing. We weren't being paid attention to [before], and we weren't ready."

But they are now. One Voice's artists bring a style and flavor to their music that is uniquely Latin. And while many of the label's artists will be unfamiliar to an English-speaking audience, they're already making a name for themselves in the Latin music scene.

The charismatic Freddie Colloca is an established artist in Latin countries, "drawing thousands of people when he performs outside the states," according to manager Scott McReynolds of Vertical Entertainment. "I [first] saw him at a Gospel Music Association showcase, and there was a real magnetism about what he did on stage that really captivated the audience." Colloca was even nominated for a Dove Award for his album, Mas que un Sentimento.

A well-regarded musician in Mexico, Alvaro Lopez began as a teen drummer for Menudo, eventually landing a gig with Luis Miguel, a veteran artist in Latin America. His upcoming release blends dance, R&B and jazz sounds.

Dance/pop with a Latin flair is the forte of Ileana Garce's music. "She has a passion to minister to people within the church walls, to help kids understand where to find that first love with God even if they've [grown up] Christian," Garces Jr. said.

One Voice has also signed teen singer Julissa, who's had three indie releases and sold a total of 150,000 of the albums south of the border. The label's four releases for 2002- new records in English from Ileana Garces, Colloca, Alvarez and Julissa's English debut - will be recorded and written with Nashville-based players and writers to solidify their pop sound, while maintaining their Latin authenticity, according to Garces Jr. and McReynolds. American audiences will likely get an opportunity to see Colloca in the near future, but tour plans were still in the works at press time.

To raise consumer awareness of the availability of Christian Latin music, distributor Provident and One Voice have put together a campaign for Christian bookstores called "Si! Tenemos Musica en Espanol!" ("Yes! We Have Music in Spanish!"). One Voice and Provident hope specifically the campaign will help inform the Spanish speaking community of this music. "According to the RIAA, the average Latin music consumer purchases almost one new CD a week, but if you don't have music in Spanish or your customers don't have music in Spanish or your customers don't know you have it, you won't sell it," Jose Garces, president of One Voice, said in a press statement.

If history repeats himself, as with urban music, the Latin genre may become as popular amongst the general population as within the Latin community. "The U.S. for years has been such a blessing for Latin America. Now it's God's timing for that passion for the Lord that's been cultivated in Latin America, for us to be able to bring that and give back," Graces Jr. said. "We feel like God has placed us in the right place at the right time."

"Originally published in the October 2001 issue of CCM Magazine, copyright 2001, CCM Communications. Reprinted with permission. For CCM Magazine subscription information, please call: 800/333-9643."

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