WHILE SOJA's Grammy win for Best Reggae Album shocked many reggae pundits, Freddie McGregor is not surprised. The veteran singer says the historic victory is “well-deserved” because the American band “had the only reggae album in the category”.
McGregor, who has been nominated once for Best Reggae Album, told the Jamaica Observer that SOJA and other American bands followed the path of reggae artistes from the 1970s and 1980s by touring non-stop to build their brand.
That workload paid off on April 3 at the Grammys in Las Vegas when their album, Beauty in The Silence, topped five Jamaican rivals — including previous winners Sean Paul and Gramps Morgan.
These are dire times for contemporary reggae, McGregor believes.
“The Billboard Reggae chart is gone, the reggae Grammy slot might as well go too 'cause Jamaican artistes, radio personalities and selectors do not like reggae anymore. So what's the point?” he asked. “Give the reggae Grammy to those who love reggae, and who play reggae.”
There have been rumours that Billboard Magazine is contemplating dropping its weekly reggae table and installing an Afrobeats chart. In an interview with the Observer recently, an insider from the publication denied this.
American bands like SOJA, Stick Figure, The Green and Rebelution have dominated the Billboard Reggae Chart in recent years. Their songs are inspired by the roots-reggae message and sound many fans in the United States and Europe identify with as Jamaican music.
Jamaican artistes and producers have lost the appetite for that flavour, McGregor noted.
“Reggae was created to spread Jah love around the world. The other one [dancehall] is about violence, crime, nakedness and liquor; I won't say too much. Who in the current Jamaican music form doing well except Koffee? We all have eyes to see, so let's decide if Jamaican music is doing better now than when we gave it to them, or is it worse now and where will it go from here,” he said.
Beauty in The Silence made SOJA the second non-Jamaican act to win the Best Reggae Album Grammy. British band Steel Pulse was the first with Babylon The Bandit in 1987.
The highly touted Live N Livin by Sean Paul, Gramps Morgan's Positive Vibration, 10 by Spice, Pamoja by Etana, and Royal by Jesse Royal completed the 2022 Best Reggae Album field.