Salsa singer Marc Anthony takes the stage tonight at the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand, a show that is a must-see for Latin music fans. It's also a big deal for Minnesota's growing Latino community.
Many people may only know Anthony for his acting and ill-fated marriage to actress Jennifer Lopez. But in the Spanish-speaking world, the Puerto Rican singer is an international superstar who has sold 11 million albums.
Anthony became a phenomenon in the 1980s, first in dance music and then in salsa. He built a following with his booming voice, dramatic delivery and urban style — especially in New York's Spanish Harlem, where he was born.
The singer's music captivated young Latinos across the country, including local hip-hop artist Maria Isa. His records helped bridge the gap between the more traditional music her Puerto Rican parents enjoyed and the hip-hop and rap she listened to, such as hardcore groups like the Wu-Tang Clan.
"Marc Anthony would be blasting at the same time Wu Tang was blasting, so you had that vibe. That was something you could listen to in your home, without your parents saying, 'Mira quitame esa musica (Take off that music, we want to hear our stuff).' So he allowed our generation to keep the soul."
Isa's favorite Marc Anthony song is "Nadie Como Ella," or "No One Like Her."
"He's just talking about respecting his women as far as like, not just trying to holler at her but pouring his heart out, saying "I need to be with you," she said.
"'Nadie Como Ella' -- when I first heard him sing that I think I was 12 years old, just being at the concert like oh my God, he's so powerful and he's got that gripping voice," Isa said. "That's a power, that's a blessing and that was passed down. We call it 'la voz de la montaña, the voice from the mountain.'"
Isa was at the last two Marc Anthony concerts at the Orpheum and Target Center.
"Things are getting better because we can go and see salsa at the State Fair, where 30 years ago you were only going to be able to maybe hear some funk and call it diversity."
Isa and other salsa lovers will be there tonight, dancing to a tropical beat.