LAS VEGAS – Despacito, the viral dance hit that swept past borders, won big Thursday (Nov 17) at the Latin Grammys where singer Luis Fonsi announced a new frontier for the song – the Chinese-speaking world.

Despacito won four awards including Record of the Year and Song of the Year, which recognises writing, in the year’s biggest night for Spanish- and Portuguese-language music.

The infectious reggaeton tune, which Fonsi sings with a rap assist from fellow Puerto Rican Daddy Yankee, was already a global hit when a remix featuring Justin Bieber brought it into the US mainstream.

Despacito became the most-watched video ever on YouTube and tied for most weeks on number one of the US singles chart – a feat all the more impressive considering how few non-English songs fare well in the world’s largest music market.

“It’s been a beautiful year. Twelve or 11 months of hard work representing our language in the entire world and enjoying a song that, thanks to Latin audiences and many beyond, has become so influential and has united the entire world and broken language barriers,” Fonsi told reporters at the gala in Las Vegas.

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Fonsi is not done with Despacito. He announced he will launch a new version in two weeks with Singaporean singer and producer JJ Lin, a star in Mandarin-language pop.

“I sang a little bit in Mandarin. The song has become a worldwide phenomenon and singing it in Mandarin is an honour,” said Fonsi, who will tour Asia next year.


After working with Bieber, Fonsi has a collaboration ready with another North American star – Echame La Culpa (Blame Me), a new song that comes out Friday featuring Demi Lovato.

Fonsi described Despacito as an “ode to Puerto Rico” – ravaged in September by Hurricane Maria – and thanked Daddy Yankee, who was noticeably absent from the Latin Grammys.

Daddy Yankee recently told Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia that he no longer wanted to perform Despacito, explaining, “Songs have their moment and they have to evolve.”

Fonsi denied any rift, saying of both Daddy Yankee and Bieber: “They are my brothers and without them I would not have achieved this.”

Panamanian singer Erika Ender, a co-writer of Despacito, found a more political meaning to the song which triumphed in the United States just after Donald Trump won the US presidential election after campaigning to get tough against immigration.

“This is a song that can break any type of barriers or walls,” she said, in a clear allusion to Trump’s pledge to build a wall on the Mexican border.