It was only a matter of time before the invasion became official, before that up-tempo mix of reggae and hip-hop — popularized by Caribbean musicians in the late ’90s — arrived in Southwest Florida.
Live reggaeton is here, and it has Pedro Perez beaming. Latin Fusion presents live reggaeton.
The buzz is building around the first installment of the Latin Fusion Concert Series, a two-day event this weekend at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Convention Center.
“This is the initial step of a movement that has been forming for years,” said Perez, event organizer. “And now it’s time to take it out of the shadows and let everyone in the community hear live Hispanic bands play.”
Latin Fusion kicks off tonight with performances from dance-pop duo Nina Sky and Miami rapper Pitbull. Saturday’s show features reggaeton sensations Glory and Wisin y Yandel. Each night, DJ Willie and DJ Casper open for the headliners.
The series (organizers are planning on making it monthly) spotlights various Latin-music styles, such as merengue, cumbia and salsa, with an emphasis on local live performances, Perez said.
“The Hispanic community is looking for a place to dance and have fun that doesn’t close at midnight, and without having to drive to Orlando or to Miami,” he said.
“There are a lot of underground, Spanish-type music, and a lot of groups have come into the area, but no one has really brought in the local Hispanic community.”
Venues such as Café of the Arts in north Sarasota, 15 South on St. Armands Circle and Club Heat in Bradenton feature popular “Latin Nights,” and have proved that Latin entertainment can thrive in the area, Perez said.
Bringing in national acts such as Pitbull and Nina Sky will undoubtedly get fans’ attention.
Pitbull’s debut album, “M.I.A.M.I.,” topped Billboard’s Top Independent Album charts last year, while Nina Sky’s hit single “Move Ya Body” reached No. 4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
Organizers expect Latin Fusion to draw about 4,000 people each night.
“We brought in headliners, and that adds substantial weight,” Perez said.
In addition to the music, the convention center boasts a large dance floor measuring 200 by 200 feet, as well as separate areas for the under-18 crowd, drinking-age adults and VIP guests, Perez said.
The next concert series is planned for Dec. 16 and 17 and features Fulanito, Joe Baby Q, Zion y Lennox, Guanabanas, Checka and DJ Casanova. Organizers are also planning an “American Idol”-type competition for local groups, with the winner opening a concert.
“This concert series is not about going to the Van Wezel and sitting down while music is playing,” Perez said. “We want people to dance.”