Omara Portuondo's 'GRACIAS' Wins the Latin Grammy (Best Contemporary Tropical)

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Friday November 06, 2009

Illustrious Cuban singer Omara Portuondo has made history twice this year. In October, the remarkable vocalist, and only female star of the Buena Vista Social Club’“¢, became one of the first Cuban artists in six years to obtain a visa to perform in the U.S., marking a cultural breakthrough in the strained relations between her homeland and the U.S.

On November 5, she also became the first Cuban resident to present at the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards, where she delivered the prestigious Song of The Year award. She was honored again as the winner for Best Contemporary Tropical Album or ‘Mejor Álbum Tropical Contemporáneo’ with her latest release Gracias produced by Montuno Productions and released on World Village.

Although Portuondo is a four-time Latin GRAMMY nominee, and won a “Prémio Música Brasileira” Brazilian Music Award last year for her duets album with Maria Bethania, as well as a Billboard Latin Music Award in 2005, this is her first GRAMMY award.

‘I’m going to represent Cuba, because I think I’m going to be the only one that will be there,’ Portuondo told the New York Daily News the day before the awards ceremony. ‘I’ll be there for all of the others.’

Portuondo performed two U.S. shows in October, for the first time since 2003, at UCLA’s Royce Hall and at the San Francisco Jazz Festival. Of her San Francisco show the Oakland Tribune wrote, ‘It’s impossible to say whether she handles the fast or slow numbers better. Whatever kind of song she’s singing at the time is the one that best suits her.” Portuondo returns in February of 2010 with concerts in Washington DC, Boston and New York City, among other major cities.

Gracias, which was also awarded the Cubadisco 2009 Grand Prix in May, is Portuondo’s third solo album, and it marks a professional musical career spanning 60 years. The New York Times declared that at 79 ‘her voice …is rich, shapely, dynamic, and still sultry’, and the Los Angeles Times called her ‘still a vibrant contemporary performer’. She first found fame in her home country with Las D’Aida quartet, and throughout the 1970s and ’80s was a highly acclaimed solo vocalist. It was the Buena Vista Social Club’“¢, however, that launched her into worldwide fame, along with such major figures as Ibrahim Ferrer, Rubén González and Compay Segundo.

Gracias was produced by Alê Siqueira, with musical direction from Swami Jr., and it features ‘some striking collaborations’ (Songlines), with such guest artists as Jorge Drexler, Richard Bona, Cachaíto López, Chico Buarque and Chucho Valdés. It is a special gift from the artist to herself and to the songwriters for whom she feels the highest regard. As the Montreal Gazette writes, it is ‘a highly personal collection of ballads… she packs a lot of feeling into this tender and nostalgic album.’ These are the songs she has always longed to sing.

OMARA PORTUONDO Tour Dates 2010 – More dates to be announced.

Feb 24 Lisner Auditorium Washington DC
Feb 26 Harvard University: Sanders Theater Boston, MA
Feb 27 Town Hall New York, NY