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22 Cuban Artists Barred From U.S.

Twenty-two Cuban artists nominated for Latin Grammys were not granted U.S. entry visas and will not attend Wednesday's awards ceremony, officials said.

The artists - soloists or members of seven groups - were unable to receive the proper visas to attend the show, according to Cuba's Vice Culture Minister Abel Acosta. Among those who will not be in attendance are jazz pianist Chucho Valdes, guitarist Rey Guerra and rapper X Alfonso.

The State Department in Washington declined to comment, and telephone calls to representatives of the Latin Recording Academy in Los Angeles, which puts on the awards ceremony, were not immediately returned.

The ceremony, to be hosted by singer Gloria Estefan and actor Jimmy Smits, is being held at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, home to the Academy Awards and will be broadcast live on CBS. This is only the third year of the Latin Grammys; the awards were broadcast nationally in 2000, but last year's ceremony had been scheduled for Sept. 11 and was canceled.

Carlos Vives, nominated for six Latin Grammy awards this year, says he's most interested in spreading Latin musical culture worldwide.

Vives, 39, is up for album, record and song of the year. Other multiple nominees include salsa great Celia Cruz, Colombian rocker Juanes and Spanish pop star Alejandro Sanz.

Vives, who describes his songs as a mix of salsa, merengue and reggae, won a Grammy earlier this year - best tropical Latin album, for "Dejame Entrar." Now the disc and its title track are up for Latin Grammys.

The Colombian singer says the awards have highlighted the universal appeal of Latin music.

"Music has been able to break down barriers," he said through a translator. "They have been reduced in a way that (now) there's no language in music, it's a sharing."

While Latin music has long produced its share of mainstream stars - Tito Puente, Santana and Ritchie Valens, to name a few - it has made enormous strides in recent years. It's now common to see Hispanic acts such as Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony or Enrique Iglesias on the top of the pop charts.

Those artists, however, have achieved their success with English-language discs. The Latin Grammy vocalists to be honored Wednesday sing in Spanish or Portuguese.

The regular Grammy ceremony in February also honors Latin music, but only in a few categories and for the best-known genres, such as salsa, Latin jazz and merengue.

The Latin Grammys reflect the wide variety of styles in Latin music with 40 different categories, including flamenco, ranchero and norteno.

"It's important not only for the Latin music industry but also for the audience to see that there are so many talented artists out there," said Bruno del Granado, president of the record label Maverick Musica.

"I think what's happening is mainstream America is finally waking up and realizing that there's a huge segment of the population out there that is Hispanic, and they have to cater to them like they cater to other audiences."

Mainstream pop will have a place in the ceremony, though. Besides performances by Marc Anthony, Juanes and Vives, acts scheduled to appear include Justin Timberlake, Backstreet Boy Nick Carter and actress-singer Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Recent Grammy winner Nelly Furtado is expected to sing a duet with Juanes.

"It's interesting to see the fusion of different genres," said del Granado.

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