Joao Gilberto, Beenie Man, Shakira Win World, Reggae, Latin Grammys

Tito Puente, Gloria Estefan, Legends, La Ley pick up other Latin awards.

World music seems to equal Brazilian music, at least in the eyes of Grammy voters.

A Brazilian artist scored the Best World Music Album Grammy Award for the fourth year in a row Wednesday night (February 21), when João Gilberto’s João Voz E Violão beat Irish journeymen the Chieftains’ Water From the Well, South African star Miriam Makeba’s Homeland, Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour’s Joko (the Link) and American flutist Paul Winter and his Earth Band’s Journey With the Sun.

During the 1950s Gilberto, 68, distilled the often-raucous samba sound into an ultra-cool music conveyed solely through voice and guitar.

Dancehall star Beenie Man won the Best Reggae Album award for Art and Life. His victory demonstrated the expanding influence of dancehall reggae, which has deeply influenced rap music. Beenie beat out late reggae singer Dennis Brown’s Let Me Be the One, UK toaster (rapper) Pato Banton’s Life Is a Miracle, old-school crooner Gregory Isaacs’ Private and Confidential and vocal-trio Wailing Souls’ Equality.

“Que viva Colombia!” exclaimed Shakira by way of accepting her award for Best Latin Pop Album. The singer’s MTV Unplugged disc bested Christina Aguilera’s Mi Reflejo, Oscar de la Hoya, Luis Miguel’s Vivo and Alejandro Sanz’s El Almo al Aire.

Hoping to parlay her Grammy win to crossover success, Shakira said, “I prefer not to be part of the ‘Latin explosion,’ because what’s left after an explosion? Ashes. I don’t want to be part of ashes.”

Cuban-American belter Gloria Estefan picked up an award for Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album for Alma Caribeña. Estefan’s return to her Caribbean roots won out over two members of the Buena Vista Social Club, Eliades Ochoa and Omara Portuondo. In other Latin awards, timbales demon Tito Puente, who died last year, won the award for Best Salsa Album, along with pianist Eddie Palmieri, for the duo’s Masterpiece/Obra Maestra. Puerto Rican sizzler Olga Tañon won the Best Merengue Album award for her Viva Olga, Olga Viva, a live album recorded in Orlando’s House of Blues.

Elsewhere in Caribbean music, the Baha Men won the Best Dance Recording award for their ubiquitous “Who Let the Dogs Out.”

A trio of Grammy Awards were dedicated to the music of Mexico. Hard rock combo La Ley’s Uno beat records by El Tri, Café Quijano, Los Amigos Invisibles and Fito Paez in the Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album category. Por Una Mujer Bonita by Pepe Aguilar won in the Best Mexican/Mexican-American Album category. And the Legends’ Qué Es Música Tejana? answered the musical question posed by the Best Tejano Album competition.

Jimmy Sturr picked up his 10th Grammy for Touched By a Polka, winner of the Best Polka Album award.

In one of the evening’s more emotional moments, producers Tom Bee and Douglas Spotted Eagle picked up the inaugural Grammy Award presented for Best Native American Album. Their Gathering of Nations Powwow compilation featured the music of 16 American Indian drum groups. The award was delivered by Robbie Robertson, formerly of the Band, who noted that while the award did indeed deservedly recognize “the original roots music of this continent,” American Indian activist Leonard Peltier remains in prison.

“Maybe he’s not ‘Marc Rich’ enough,” noted Robertson.

(Click here for a complete list of winners.)