Friends to the South

  Berklee student Pablo Latapí, hit Latin music producers K.C. Porter and Marco Flores, and student Nicolás Mariñelarena at the August Central American Music Conference in Managua, Nicaragua



Early last summer, as I walked into one of Berklee's recording studios for a mixing session, my phone rang. The voice on the other end said, "Hello, Nicolás? This is K.C. Porter." My jaw dropped. Porter is a renowned producer responsible for the Ricky Martin hits "Maria" and "Livin' la Vida Loca" and has worked with other major names in the Latin pop industry, including Selena, Santana, and Los Fabulosos Cadillacs.

Prior to that call, I had contacted Porter's assistant to arrange for him to give a clinic at Berklee. We were working out the details when Porter himself called to extend an invitation to the first-ever Central American Music Conference, which he was organizing. He wanted Berklee students to attend the conference and invited Pablo Latapí and me to Managua, Nicaragua, for the event. The purpose of the conference was threefold: (1) to bring together panels of producers, managers, artists, music-business entrepreneurs, and music video producers; (2) to create more contact between Berklee and music-industry professionals in Central America; and (3) to educate emerging music professionals about the intricacies of their industry.

Once in Managua, we met Gabriel Traversari, the conference's lead organizer and a TV personality for Latin television airing in the United States. Over the course of three days, we developed a friendly relationship with Traversari. He's a hardworking man who is sincerely interested in the betterment of the Central American music industry.

The conference focused on building relationships among artists, companies, and various music professionals in the region. The hope is that a stronger network will give the undeniable talent of this area a place in the international spotlight. Latapí and I attended emerging artist showcases, private artist presentations, and public conferences that dealt with a range of topics, including royalty and copyright management, marketing techniques, and the varying size of budgets for musical and video productions. A California native, Porter spent his formative years in Guatemala, and he relayed his experience writing Latin hits geared toward the North American market.

Latapí and I hosted a discussion on music production and, as Berklee representatives, received a warm reception from attendees and panelists alike. The formidable talent and richness of the pop and folkloric style of the Nicaraguan artists was impressive. We left the conference satisfied that we had formed important and lasting relationships with our Central American counterparts.