Aventura: ‘We don’t want to be sell-outs’

A day before the 2010 Billboard Latin Music Awards be held in Puerto Rico for the first time ever tonight, Aventura is clear on one thing: Recording new material in English is not an option.

The New York urban group of Dominican origin — dubbed “The Kings of Bachata” and last year’s biggest-selling tropical act (according to Nielsen Soundscan) — said on Wednesday that it is not interested in making a crossover into the Anglo mainstream market with English material because it wants to keep its winning musical formula intact and genuine.

“If we ever decide or have the chance to collaborate with, say, Justin Timberlake or Usher, I would like them to sing bachata in Spanish and step into our Latin culture first so they can appreciate our Hispanic traditions and way of life and not the other way around,” said the group’s lead singer Anthony “Romeo” Santos on Wednesday during a one-on-one interview with Leila Cobo, Executive Editor of Latin Content and Programming for Billboard, on the second day of the Billboard Latin Music Conference being held at a Condado hotel.

“We don’t want to be sell-outs,” he added.

The group of two brothers and two cousins — all with the last name Santos — broke into New York’s underground music scene 14 years ago, but it wasn’t until some five years ago that it burst successfully onto the international music scene, becoming the best-selling tropical act today for its infectious fusion of romantic bachata, R&B, hip hop and pop.

In 2005, the band signed a distribution deal with Sony Music, and since then its music has reached the far corners of the world, including Holland and Dubai, among other European and Middle Eastern countries.
Among its most popular hits are “Hermanita,” “La Guerra” and “Obsesión.”
But the road to success was all but a walk in the park for Aventura.

“When we started, we took our music to several multinational record labels (which I’m not going to mention), but no one was interested in it,” recalled “Romeo,” who has become a sex symbol for legions of female fans throughout the US and Latin American markets.

“With ‘Obsesión,’ we became an underground hit, but we really never entered the mainstream market. It was tough . . . we began with nothing, and we never imagined we would be where we are today. It was hard work, but we eventually pulled it off,” he added.

With its 2009 concert tour titled “The Kings: Live,” the band played a record-breaking, five-concert series at the José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum in Hato Rey, and a four-night gig at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

“Even Marc Anthony had a hard time bursting onto the mainstream music scene when he started . . . music execs would say that he was not singing salsa,” said “Romeo,” adding that it would be interesting to collaborate with Daddy Yankee.

“And look who’s Marc Anthony today,” he added.

Although Aventura members — Mikey, Lenny, Henry and Anthony — will continue working as a team, they also said that this year they plan to embark on solo careers as well.

“The most important thing for us is Aventura, but we also want to record solo albums as well and do our own thing,” said “Romeo,” who’ll begin recording songs for his upcoming record as a soloist in four months.

“None of us ever thought that we would pack Madison Square Garden, much less four nights,” he said.

“But I think that having chemistry as artists and musicians has helped us a great deal.”