Jimmy Humilde, Carin Leon & More Ask the Latin Grammys: ¿Y El Regional Mexicano No Cuenta?

Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla

Artists and industry professionals in the regional Mexican music space are speaking out about their genre’s absence in this year’s major Latin Grammys categories. Despite the fact that acts like Natanael Cano and Carin Leon were among 2020’s leading Latin music artists, they and their colleagues were shut out of the 2020 Latin Grammy Awards’ big four categories.

When reggaetón music was excluded from the 2019 Latin Grammy Awards’ major categories (Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best New Artist), Puerto Rican legend Daddy Yankee posted the “Sin Reggaetón, No Hay Latin Grammy” graphic on Instagram to express his disappointment. Soon after, more reggaetoneros (Karol G, J Balvin) joined the movement. They were successful in getting their message across. In this year’s nominations, reggaetón took a stronghold on the categories and J Balvin made history as the most-nominated artist in a single year, leading the pack with 13 nominations.

“When I saw the nominations, I was like, ‘Wait a minute, there’s no regional Mexican music in those four general categories,’” Maria Inés Sanchez, director of marketing and PR at Mexican label AfinArte Music, tells Remezcla. She helped spark this new movement by posting the graphic “¿Y El Regional Mexicano No Cuenta?” on Instagram. “I started looking at the past 21 years of the Latin Grammys and I noticed [that] even when they increased the categories from five to 10 nominees… regional Mexican music simply disappeared.”

“I want an opportunity for the little labels to be heard.”

That being said, Regional Mexicano has been recognized a few times in the past. In 2005, Intocable’s X was nominated For Album of the Year, Vicente Fernández followed in 2006, Pepe Aguilar in 2015 and Luis Miguel’s ¡México Por Siempre! took home the award in 2018. In 2011, Marco Antonio Solís and Los Tigres Del Norte were up for Song of the Year and Record of the Year respectively. In 2016, Aguilar was also nominated for Record of the Year and Joss Favela was up for Best New Artist. In 2017, Alejandro Fernández was nominated for Record of the Year and in the following year, Christian Nodal and Ángela Aguilar were both up for Best New Artist.

When it comes to Regional Mexican music nominees, Sanchez notes that it’s the independent labels that are getting left out the most. “I want an opportunity for the little labels to be heard,” she says. One of those biggest little labels is the LA-based Rancho Humilde. The group is leading the corridos tumbados movement with Natanael Cano. Despite being the third most-streamed Latin artist of 2020 in the U.S. so far, behind Bad Bunny and Ozuna, he was also overlooked in the Latin Grammy Awards’ regional Mexican music categories.

“It’s very frustrating to see how this musical genre that has surpassed borders over the years and has been representing a whole culture [has] been wiped out just like that at these awards,” Jimmy Humilde, founder and CEO of Rancho Humilde, tells Remezcla. “We are still here, we’ll make Latin Grammy-worthy music, and we are not going anywhere!”

Sanchez understands this is not a one-sided issue and that it will need to be a collaborative effort. “I know people in the industry, like us at the labels and the artists, that we’ll need to get more involved with the Latin Recording Academy,” she says. “We need to register to become members so we’re able to vote, but at the same time, it’s also kind of the responsibility of the Academy to reach out to those people. As independent labels, we’re like the underdogs. These indie labels, most of them don’t know about the RIAA [Recording Industry Association of America] or the Latin Grammys because no one has taught them. I think it goes both ways.”

The Latin Recording Academy responded to the movement in a statement to Billboard: “The Latin Recording Academy has followed a strict voting process for the past 21 years that applies to all categories of the Latin Grammys. Our members, through their votes, select what they believe merits a nomination. The Latin Academy has never influenced their decisions, and has always honored and respected their elections, even if some may not agree with the results. Nevertheless, we always listen whenever there is frustration and discontent. We invite the regional Mexican music community to get involved with the Latin Recording Academy by becoming members, participating in discussions and voting.”

“We are still here, we’ll make Latin Grammy-worthy music, and we are not going anywhere!”

The artists are on board. Like Cano, Carin Leon is a Mexican singer that had a breakout year in 2020. “As artists, we must do more for our genre,” he tells us. “I think it’s important that we unite and work towards the same goal, to take our music to the next level just as genres like reggaetón and pop have done. For me, the key is [unity]. We have to work together so that our genre is more represented.”

Rising artists aren’t the only ones who are speaking out on the issue, legacy acts in the genre are too. In an exclusive statement, Banda El Recodo says: “Being one of the bands with the longest trajectory in the regional Mexican genre, we feel a commitment to our music. That’s why we believe it’s important that we unite to achieve more representation of our genre in these categories. We understand there must be a commitment on our part and we must become more involved with the Academy and give ourselves the task of learning. We encourage our friends and colleagues in the genre to start a conversation with the Latin Grammys to get to know each other and establish a close relationship.”

Regional Mexican music is a staple of the Latin music scene that’s continuing to chart alongside reggaetón and Latin trap music around the world. Acts like Banda MS and El Fantasma were selling-out arenas before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. “More than recognition, it’s also about respect,” Sanchez says. “Yes, the labels are small, but regional Mexican music is huge, so they need to respect it.”