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AMP: Five Latin Grammy Nominees to Watch

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By Kamren Curiel

The biggest night in Latin music hits Sin City this Thursday--The Latin Grammys at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay--and while, like most award shows, there are still categories M.I.A. (punk, electronic), expect some pretty dope duets (Pitbull with Marc Anthony, Maná with Prince Royce, Romeo Santos with Usher), performances by Demi Lovato and Taboo, and a pre-party hosted by Mexican indie artist, Ximena Sariñana, who just released her first English-language album and performed on Morning Becomes Eclectic before embarking on her first headlining U.S. tour. In addition to three stylish presenters I'm excited to see dress for the occasion--I see you, Sofia Vergara, Zoe Saldana and Sandra Echeverría--I thought I'd AMPlify some of the artists I'm stoked to see getting love as nominees. Here are five artists I'm rooting for:

Shakira: Yes, we all know this mujer can sing and dance like no other, but did you know she's committed to some serious causes? The seven-time Latin Grammy and two-time Grammy winner will join a list of artists, including Carlos Santana, Gloria Estefan and Ricky Martin, when she's presented with the 2011 Person of the Year Tribute for her artistic and philanthropic contributions. The bicultural beauty-slash-do-gooder, who's also nominated for album of the year for her Sale El Sol, started giving back at 18 when she founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation, an organization that helps underprivileged children in Colombia. She is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, an advocate for universal education and on her 32nd birthday, opened a $6 million school in her hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia. Beautiful, talented and gives back. That's what I call a hot mama!

Fidel Nadal: As a serious reggae fan, I love to see the genre being embraced by different cultures. The ska/rocksteady-rooted music has spread everywhere from its 1960s Jamaican birthplace to the Pacific Islands of Hawaii and even Argentina. The latter is where Afro-Argentinean artist, Fidel Nadal, is holding down the reggae scene with his infectious melodies that are oh so reminiscent of legend Bob Marley. Fidel's latest album, Forever Together!, is up for best alternative album and has been on my radar since his 2008 Crucial Cuts landed on my playlist.

La Santa Cecilia: The six-member band from L.A., whose influences are diverse as their home (mariachis, ranchera, reggae, punk rock), is nominated for best tropical song for "La Negra" off their Noche y Citas Con Chicle album. I caught up with frontwoman, La Marisoul, last month and can't wait to see a local band with Olvera Street roots walk away with a Grammy.

Calle 13: Leading the race with a record 10 nominations, including album of the year for Entren Los Que Quieran, Puerto Rican stepbrothers René Pérez Joglar aka Residente and Eduardo José Cabra Martínez aka Visitante are also up for producer of the year for Shakira's Sale El Sol. I think NPR's Alt Latino said it best: "Calle 13 is one of the most exciting and creative groups to hit the Latin Alternative scene in the last decade...Calle 13 is exactly what mainstream Latin music needs right now: an injection of rebellion, thought and real sexuality."

Caetano Veloso: I can't forget Brazilian composer/singer/guitarist/writer/political activist, Caetano Veloso, whose MTV Ao Vivo, Zii e Zie, is up for best Brazilian rock album. Caetano's sound was birthed from a scene in Brazil that exploded in the 1960s called tropicalia. A mix of blues, jazz, folk and psychedelic rock, tropicalia was also a movement that combined literature, poetry, art, and political commentary. Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Os Mutantes, a band Kurt Cobain once publicly asked to get back together, are among those who came out of this time.

Watch the Latin Grammys this Thursday, November 10 from 8 - 11 p.m. ET/PT on Univision.

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Kamren Curiel is a Digital Media Editor at Voto Latino and freelance writer for Remezcla and MTV Iggy. Her column, AMP (Art Music Politics), profiles artists and musicians that are dedicated to a cause.