Emilio Estefan honored as pioneer producer
(CNN) -- Last week's Latin Grammy awards ceremony offered an array of firsts, beginning with itself: It was an inaugural event.
Others also enjoyed the stature that comes with forging something new. One of the event's premiere celebrants was producer-artist Emilio Estefan Jr., named the first-ever Latin Academy Person of the Year.
Estefan, already a five-time Grammy winner, also won two Latin Grammys during the ceremony sponsored by the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.
He was honored as best producer and for having the best music video for the song "No Me Dejes De Querer," which he co-wrote with his wife, singer Gloria Estefan.
Celia Cruz, Shakira and Carlos Ponce headed an all-star salute to Estefan, who received his award from LARAS President Michael Greene.
Greene credited Estefan's Miami Sound Machine with making the public more aware of Latin music. The former group, which introduced his wife to a larger audience, brought Latin music to a world stage, he said.
"He took that organization, which was centered around Gloria, and he built pretty much an empire," he told WorldBeat.
Estefan also has produced tracks for a who's who in Latin popular music. In addition to working with Cruz, Shakira and Ponce, Estefan has helped produce music by Chachao, Carlos Vives, Jon Secada, Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin. He even crossed over into mainstream pop in 1996, producing the soundtrack to the film "Evita" with Madonna.
Estefan is "a great producer, a great friend, a great entrepreneur," said Secada. "He's got tremendous instinct for making the right decision, for picking the right songs. He's a great writer and has a tremendous pulse on what's going on in the market."
"I love working with Emilio and his team, because they are all young people looking for new sounds, looking for ways to make people vibrate," said Martin, whose next album Estefan is producing.
"It's a big honor for me and for the whole Latin community," he told WorldBeat Correspondent Serena Yang. "I'm very excited. It's a day that I never expect to happen."
The recognition means Latin culture has gained greater acceptance, Estefan added.
"One thing that makes me happy is that I push my culture without changing my last name, without changing my sound to please a record label or to please radio," he said. "You can never forget where you come from."
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