Ricky Martin to Select Best Boys on ‘La Banda’

The man who introduced Latin pop and salsa rhythms to the non-Hispanic world with 1998 FIFA World Cup anthem “The Cup of Life” is set to give life — or death — to musicians hoping to be crowned the next big Banda.

Ricky Martin, perhaps the original “boy band” star of the Latin world thanks to his meteoric rise to stardom as a member of 1980s teen act Menudo, has been named executive producer and the first judge of Univision’s long-awaited answer to The X Factor, American Idol and The Voice.

Martin will be joined by other yet-to-be revealed judges on the reality competition series, which was teased during Univision’s 2015 upfront presentation some 10 months ago but won’t air until September, the network said. Mexican beauty-pageant winner and Univision presenter Alejandra Espinoza will host.

La Banda is being developed through a multifaceted partnership between Univision and Simon Cowell’s SYCO Entertainment, Haim Saban’s Saban Brands, and FremantleMedia Latin America, which is co-producing the series.

“I am very excited to be a part of this innovative program, together with Simon Cowell,” Martin said. “Our community needs musical projects in order to cultivate its talents, which is why I feel it’s the perfect moment for a show like La Banda. There is so much talent to be discovered, and I’m sure we’ll find the next musical phenomenon with the help of not only the judges but also the fans.”

In prepared comments, Cowell added: “We are on a search for a world-class band, and we needed a world class judge. I know Ricky, and he is as excited and passionate about the show as I am. I know he’s going to do an amazing job.”

Yet women are being shut out of La Banda, no matter how talented they may be.

Despite a six-city series of auditions that started March 7 in Los Angeles and included stops in San Juan, P.R.; Houston; New York; Chicago; and Miami, the goal of La Banda is to bring a Menudo-like experience to a generation born some 25 years after that act’s commercial peak. “The ultimate Latino boy band” ultimately selected by La Banda judges will score a recording contract with Sony Music Latin and Cowell’s SYCO Music — the recording label for boy band of the moment, One Direction.

In addition to the six-city casting tour, boys aged 14 and older residing in the U.S. and Puerto Rico who wished to participate on La Banda could enter at LaBandaoficial.com and upload pictures, videos or sound files of their musical talents and onstage moves.

Select online registrants, much like a character in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, snagged a “golden ticket” inviting them to participate in a private audition with the Banda production team.

Martin will manage the winning band.