When Richard Bravo attends the Latin Grammy Awards in Seville, Spain on Thursday (Nov. 16), the ceremony will be a somewhat bittersweet moment. Nominated for the first time for his own work with his dear friend Camilo Valencia, for their instrumental album Made In Miami, the Venezuelan drummer and percussionist — a three-time-Latin Grammy winner — couldn’t be more proud. But he will have to travel without the composer and main architect of the album: After undergoing a third heart transplant, Valencia died on Sept. 6, just a few days before the nominations were announced.
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“It made me very happy” to receive the nomination, Bravo tells Billboard Español, saying that he found out from friends who sent him screenshots in which his and Valencia’s names appeared. “I was in Europe and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe this!’
“The first person I thought of was Camilo,” adds the artist, who is currently on tour with Juanes and will also perform with the Latin Grammys band at the awards show. “I said, ‘Wow, all the effort on this record and all the sacrifice, the time, the energy, the money, everything, and it happened.’”
Valencia, an award-winning Miami-based multi-instrumentalist, arranger and producer born in Cuba, worked throughout his career with stars like Carlos Santana, Ricky Martin, Shakira, José Feliciano and many others. He was also the musical director of TV shows such as La Voz Kids, A Oscuras Pero Encendidos and Viva El Sueño, and created countless jingles for commercials with Bravo and Carlos Oliva.
“Here in Miami, not a day goes by that I turn on the radio or the TV and something that he did doesn’t come out,” says his brother, bassist Rafael Valencia, also an experienced musician who worked on the album and received a nomination for best arrangement for “Songo Bop,” his only song on Made In Miami.
He says that, before he was hospitalized, Camilo went to his house for lunch and told him that they had submitted Made In Miami for the Latin Grammy nomination for best instrumental album, and that they also sent his song for the best arrangement category. “I thought, ‘Why!?’ I liked his arrangements better,” he recalls with a laugh, before adding with emotion: “That was a gift that Camilo gave me before he left.”
Nominations were announced on Sept. 19, 13 days after his death due to unexpected complications. He was about to turn 64.
Camilo Valencia and Richard Bravo.
Made In Miami is the only album of his own that Camilo Valencia got to record. Comprised of 11 songs, the project pays tribute to the cultural diversity of his adoptive Miami, fusing elements of pop, jazz, funk, R&B, bebop, songo, salsa, samba and Afro-Cuban. Renowned musicians from Arturo Sandoval and Ed Calle, to Milton Salcedo, Philip Lassiter and Luis Enrique, participated in the album. All of the songs, except for “Songo Bop,” were written by Valencia over the course of two decades.
It all started with the first heart transplant, says Bravo, his friend for over 30 years: “I told him, ‘Camilo — because he always had music in his head — why don’t you make use of your time in the hospital, while you recover, and start writing songs?’ The first one he wrote was called ‘CCU,’ which is the hospital’s cardio unit, and that’s how it started. Little by little he wrote the songs, and in recent years we started recording the entire album.”
In addition to “CCU (Coronary Care Unit),” which opens Made In Miami, there are songs like “Hurricane Jiménez,” dedicated to his cardiologist, and “One Heart at a Time,” dedicated to his second donor, “a teenager from Puerto Rico who was murdered by robbers to steal his car,” says his brother Rafael. But there are also titles that pay tribute to the family, such as “Café Union,” which is named after the restaurant his father owned in Cuba, and “Papadin,” a song in honor of Bravo’s father, with whom Valencia was also close.
Family is an important element that’s also very present musically on the album. “It’s very special, because not only are all the Valencias, but all the Bravos here,” explains Bravo. “There’s my brother, my son and my nephew, who recorded the same song [‘Papadin’],” as well as Rafael and his son Ralfy.
When talking about his feelings the day of the nomination, Bravo recalls that he always thought that he and Valencia would travel to Seville together. “I thought he was going to leave the hospital,” he says. “He did it three times [before], and I thought it was going to happen.”
Valencia is survived by his son Eric, his brother Rafael, his sisters Barbara and Maria, and a large extended family. In his honor, many of them will attend the Latin Grammy Awards ceremony.
Stream Made In Miami below: