GABRIEL ABAROA, PRESIDENT OF LATIN GRAMMYs & STRONG ROLE MODEL FOR LATINOS

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GABRIEL ABAROA, PRESIDENT OF LATIN GRAMMYs & STRONG ROLE MODEL FOR LATINOS

Of the many qualities that I admire in my friend GABRIEL ABAROA, there is one that proves to be priceless for anyone involved in the music industry: he is a decent human being. This is just one of the many reasons why the president of the Latin Recording Academy, is one of my favorite people.

GABRIEL ABAROA, PRESIDENT OF LATIN GRAMMYs & STRONG ROLE MODEL FOR LATINOS

Gabriel was gracious enough to invite us to the Latin Grammy offices in Santa Monica, where we conducted this exclusive interview for Blog de Los Angeles.

GABRIEL ABAROA, PRESIDENT OF LATIN GRAMMYs & STRONG ROLE MODEL FOR LATINOS

What are the qualities someone needs to find success in the music industry? "Passion, talent and dedication", Gabriel Abaroa assures.

GABRIEL ABAROA, PRESIDENT OF LATIN GRAMMYs & STRONG ROLE MODEL FOR LATINOS

Two traits define this charismatic character: intelligence and likeability. What else does someone need to become president of the Latin Grammys? "To love music, respect the people who make it and believe in the transparency and honesty that reinforce the international Grammy brand after 58 years", Gabriel says.

GABRIEL ABAROA, PRESIDENT OF LATIN GRAMMYs & STRONG ROLE MODEL FOR LATINOS

"Everything than can be achieved that benefits music" moves Gabriel. "The emerging artists, the concerts, visiting students, giving scholarships, sponsoring the rescue of archives, recordings and musicians. Everything that makes up the foundations of what is known as Latin music".

GABRIEL ABAROA, PRESIDENT OF LATIN GRAMMYs & STRONG ROLE MODEL FOR LATINOS

"When I am alone, I find shelter in the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s that I listened to as a teen, regardless of language. Genres are unimportant to me. All styles can be beautiful, and I like to learn from them all".

GABRIEL ABAROA, PRESIDENT OF LATIN GRAMMYs & STRONG ROLE MODEL FOR LATINOS

Close up of Gabriel Abaroa during out interview about Laras and the Grammy Awards.

GABRIEL ABAROA, PRESIDENT OF LATIN GRAMMYs & STRONG ROLE MODEL FOR LATINOS

Favorite moment for Gabriel at the show? "When it's over"! He jokes. By the way, he is one of the funniest people I have ever met.

GABRIEL ABAROA, PRESIDENT OF LATIN GRAMMYs & STRONG ROLE MODEL FOR LATINOS

Mexican architect Gabriel Abaroa and his wife Cristina, formed a family group to entertain their six kids - a la The Sound of Music – where all of them played an instrument and the entire family participated in the fun. Little Gabriel chose the drum kit. Here is a photo from that time taken during the famous television show hosted by Raúl Velasco, Siempre en Domingo.

GABRIEL ABAROA, PRESIDENT OF LATIN GRAMMYs & STRONG ROLE MODEL FOR LATINOS

The little drum player grew up to become a lawyer who finally became the President of the Latin Grammys. Here Gabriel stands by his wife Lorenza and the four kids the have together. From left to right, Diego with wife Paulette, Iñigo, Fatima and Franco. Thank you Gabriel! Mi casa, su casa at Blog de Los Angeles.

Of the many qualities that I admire in my friend Gabriel Abaroa, there is one that proves to be priceless for anyone involved in the music industry: he is a decent human being. This is just one of the many reasons why Gabriel Abaroa, president of the Latin Recording Academy, is one of my favorite people. Two other traits define his character: intelligence and likeability… I wanted the family of Blog de Los Ángeles to get to know him as well.

At this point, I should probably admit that I have a weakness for the prolific family of the Abaroa brothers and their amazing parents: Don Gabriel, an extraordinary Mexican architect, and Doña Cristina, whose beautiful eyes will inevitably take your breath away. They fostered a love of music in their six children from the very beginning. In fact, they formed a family group to entertain their kids – a la The Sound of Music – where all of them played an instrument and the entire family participated in the fun. Little Gabriel chose the drum kit, and in our gallery you will find a photo from that time taken during the famous television show hosted by Raúl Velasco, Siempre en Domingo. Undoubtedly, it was the creators of the Abaroa dynasty who were responsible for the fact that all of their children followed a professional path in music. It is their firstborn, Gabriel Abaroa, who occupies today one of the most important roles in the U.S. music industry.

Gabriel was gracious enough to invite us to the Latin Grammy offices in Santa Monica, where we conducted this exclusive interview for Blog de Los Angeles.

– Gabriel, what are the qualities that are needed in your opinion for someone to find success in the music industry?

– Three things: passion, talent and dedication.

– We all know how complicated it is – almost impossible, really – for someone to make it in such a highly competitive field. If someone close to you asked for advice, would you tell him to pursue his dreams or give them up?

– I would advice him to passionately defend his beliefs and practice constantly, 10 to 12 hours a day. Be the best you can be, and never take no for an answer. This profession is not meant to be for the best ones; it’s for the strongest. If it’s money or fame that you’re after, don’t devote yourself to music. Do it only for love. Never stop practicing, polish your talent and perhaps, after all, one day you may experience riches and fame.

– Clearly you have observed from close proximity the great legends of contemporary music. Do they have any traits in common? What makes them different from the other artists who could not achieve such tremendous level of success?

– Sacrifice. They have all made tremendous sacrifice. They have suffered. But they emerged victorious on account of their strength and determination.

– How has Latin music evolved since you became a part of the Academy?

– When I stepped in, the CD was the predominant format, there were few videos and genres were stable. Now you see a lot of different fusions, and urban music emerged and remained at the top. The MP3 is a thing of the past, the selling of music happens in more instantaneous and direct ways. There are no borders anymore – you can launch a new record anywhere, and it can still enjoy universal reach. Things have definitely changed!

– On a personal level, what are the human qualities required for someone to become president of the Latin Grammy’s?

– To love music, respect the people who make it and believe in the transparency and honesty that reinforce the international Grammy brand after 58 years.

– You’ve been in charge of the Latin Academy for 13 years. What was your biggest fear when you first accepted the position?

– I thought driving the Academy would be much easier, but that was not the case. I discovered we lacked credibility among our own people, and even less with the English speakers. The Latin Grammys began as the ugly duckling of the Grammys. During the first few years, I felt like someone who’s navigating upriver in the rapids, on a canoe filled with holes and people throwing rocks at you on both sides of the shore. We always maintained a dignified attitude that projected security. The people throwing rocks got tired, decided to climb aboard the canoe – some rowed, others helped with the repairs. It was exhausting but productive. Day by day my team and I became invested in this institution. To answer your question, my biggest fear was losing the Academy. Not only would my personal pride and the pride of all those who believed in this project be hurt, but the damage would be irreversible for the established artists and the new ones who did believe in this special awards ceremony. 13 years later, we’re aboard a luxurious yacht that sails with ease through less turbulent waters.   And because we enjoy the advantage of not being a huge transatlantic ship, we can travel fast and adjust to the difficulties that confront us on a daily basis.

– What moves you the most about being part of something like this?

– Everything than can be achieved that benefits music. The emerging artists, the concerts, visiting students, giving scholarships, sponsoring the rescue of archives, recordings and musicians. Everything that makes up the foundations of what is known as Latin music.

– Thinking about today… What, if anything, remains from your fears and hopes of the beginning?

– Those fears are now gone. They have probably morphed into new fears, but we continue to see those as obstacles that must be faced in order to continue growing. The hopes and dreams are not only there – in fact, they have increased. There is a lot to reach for, and much more to be done. We are missing time and resources, but we are always forging ahead, upwards.

– What’s your proudest achievement related to the Latin Grammys to this day?

– To gain the trust of our brothers at the Recording Academy. We now work together in our projects, as if the two organizations were actually one. And yet, there is a story that I like to remember. A few months after we had taken over that side of Latin music, we decided to rent new offices. A high level executive with the Recording Academy called me on the phone to suggest that I shouldn’t sign a lease for longer than 12 months. When I asked him why, he told me that according to his estimate, the Latin Recording Academy would disappear within the following year. What a motivation, right? This happened 14 years ago, the executive who predicted our false demise had to leave the Academy, and we’re now getting ready to celebrate our 20th anniversary. 20 years! Not bad, right?

– If you could erase a moment from all these years, which one would you pick?

– If we except the death of a great number of artists and music professionals, none. Every single moment has been key to the growth of this institution.

– Some people were against the decision to break apart the Latin Grammys from the regular Grammy awards because – they thought – this may fuel the perception that Latinos are less important than other American people.

– That opinion was prevalent at the beginning, but I haven’t heard it again for the past decade. The reality is that we have the same goals, but different strategies. We communicate in three languages: Spanish, Portuguese and English. Our membership is international and our music is heard in more than 40 countries. I don’t understand how we could participate in the American Grammys, when their voting members live exclusively in the United States, everything is in English and the product they evaluate is commercialized strictly within this country.

– Once a year, half of the world sits down to watch the Latin Grammys on TV. How do you and your team experience the stress during the days leading to the awards?

– It’s the stress that experiences us, more likely [laughs.] It’s true, the pressure is huge, but we are very well organized, so we enjoy the moment and laugh a lot. To get jittery at that time would be of no help. We plan the show with a lot of anticipation, we establish great communication with our producers, the network, the media, and every single participant. At the end of the day, things can be done yelling or asking for them – in a bad mood, or smiling. We always pick the most positive option, and that philosophy starts at the very top.

– What’s your favorite moment of the show?

– When it’s over [laughs.] At that moment, we are already thinking what can be improved the following year, and ready to start again from scratch.

– How would you explain in simple terms the great amount of work that the Latin Recording Academy does – something unknown to people who are outside the music industry? What happens at the Academy during the 364 days prior to the show?

– When you go to school, you attend classes every day and at the end you receive your diploma. Your parents see the teacher handing you the diploma, but did not witness the effort that you made in class in order to achieve that. In a similar manner, the Academy does its homework on a daily basis: registering new music, revising the process and rules, visiting schools with artists so that kids can listen to their musical heroes telling them that they must study, read, prepare themselves. We work in tandem so that our foundation has the funds to give scholarships., we present acoustic shows, we participate in seminars and conferences that promote the best in Latin music. All this is done so that, at the end of the day, we can deliver the “diplomas” that materialize in the shape of that small gramophone we affectionately call “a Grammy.”

– What does a member of the music industry need to do in order to be part of the Latin Recording Academy (LARAS)?

– Visit our website and read the Membership section. Then, contact us to request any further information that you may require.

– There are people who are not part of the industry but love music and would like to assist the Academy. Is there a program for them? What options do they have?

– There’s a category for non voting members where they can participate. It’s not open to everyone, but that’s also explained in our website.

– What music do you listen to when you are on vacation? What’s your favorite genre?

– When I am alone, I find shelter in the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s that I listened to as a teen, regardless of language. Genres are unimportant to me. All styles can be beautiful, and I like to learn from them all.

– I am aware of the fact that you are surrounded by an extraordinary team. How do you go about selecting the professionals that have worked with you all these years?

– Some of them I inherited and was lucky enough to realize how outstanding they are. Others have joined the team as time went by. I struggle to create the ambiance of a family, fun and polite, in spite of the challenges. I think that’s noticeable. I may be wrong, but I believe they are happy to come to work every day. Often, it is me who has to ring the alarm and turn the lights off so that the staff goes home. Because I believe that dedication to work is just as important as the hours of personal enjoyment. It’s true, we have the most committed, tenacious and loyal team in the world.

– When artists are nominated, I am sure they love you and think that the Academy is the best institution on the face of the Earth. But when they are not nominated – or they lose, even – some will blame the alleged “politics” of the Academy. How do you experience this occasional tug-of-war?

– We feel an endless amount of respect for all those who labor so that their music reaches an audience. I would like all of them to feel honored and recognized, but that’s the way this process works. Sometimes they have demanded an explanation, but the reality of it is, there is not a lot to explain. It’s a lottery where everyone plays and only one person can get the winning ticket. The rules are clear, and everyone who participates does so because they believe in their product. Then it’s the members who vote privately, without knowing what the other voters are doing. I imagine many categories are defined by a single vote. That’s the way it’s been for the Grammys along 58 years of existence.

– Under so much pressure and work exhaustion, have you ever thought about quitting?

– I have never considered resigning when under pressure, although I understand that soon I must let someone with renewed energy and vitality to come and fight during the next decade. It’s the key to maintaining an organization like ours vital and fresh.

**

We hope he never does, because Gabriel Abaroa continues to achieve a magnificent mission at the helm of an institution that brings together, through music, all Latin American people who live across the globe. Culminating in that special night when many families gather around their TV set to watch their musical idols receiving awards, discover the talent of other countries and celebrate the legends who are no longer with us. Many thanks for this interview, dear Gabriel. Keep up the good work! You are always welcome to visit us again at Blog de Los Angeles!

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Interview and photos: Nunu for Nunu Pictures

Translation by Ernesto Lechner

If you want to know more about the Latin Grammys and the Latin Recording Academy (LARAS), click here:

www.latingrammy.com/en


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