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SA Music Awards

2012 Best Vocalist: Ray 'Colao'' Rodríguez (Colao')

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Photo by Chuck Kerr

Ray 'Colao'' Rodríguez (Colao')

In a Latin orchestra, singing well is not enough — you need to be able to be a sonero, a master at improvising and leading a call-and-response with the chorus. Something Puerto Rican Ray "Colao'" Rodríguez does in spades.

His nasal tone is subtle enough to please the románticos, and has enough power for those who prefer the edgier, harder NY-styled blend of salsa. Yet, Colao' is more than a salsa orchestra, and the man's Boston background allows him to deliver a key requirement for anyone who dares to sing with him: constant switches in tempo and style, stopping on a dime and starting again without notice, and an ability to switch from Afro-Cuban to urban American music as the song needs.

"The last 11 years in San Antonio have made me more than a singer," says Rodríguez, a sort of José Feliciano, Pete Rodríguez, and Otis Redding all rolled into one. "I feel I am now a full performer. I love music and I love performing, and I'll never give it up."

How he would sing backed by a hard rock guitarist and a heavy metal keyboardist is hard to tell. But if you want to know what the hell he does on this list, check him out every Friday at Rosario's. The dancers there were grateful enough to make him this year's best San Antonio singer.

2. Mark Monaco (Mark Monaco Band)
3. Chris Salinas (Chris Salinas & The Wildgrass Band)

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