No prime time for Reggae
Reggae Grammy for main stage unlikelySunday, May 09, 2021
BY RICHARD JOHNSON
MUSIC insider Cristy Barber is lending her voice to the ongoing debate and call for the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album to be presented during the live telecast of the annual music extravaganza.
She firmly believes that, given a number of factors, the 'reggae Grammy' will not be presented live any time soon, neither will there be an increase in the number of Grammys awarded in the reggae category, as many are also asking. Barber is therefore urging the local music fraternity to continue supporting the Grammy organisation with their votes in order to maintain the solo awards which currently exists.
“There is still so much work to do, and that's why I have committed myself to the campaign to educate the industry, both in Jamaica and across the world, about how the Grammy Awards works...only a small percentage of the members, as little as nine per cent, understand the inner workings,” said Barber, who is a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) which oversees the Grammy Awards.
“That is why it is so critical for artistes to register, and if you are a member you must vote. We already have low submissions so we won't get a second category. So we need to work to keep the one category that we do have, if not we will lose it to pop or some other category which is much more robust. It is for that reason that we won't see the reggae Grammy being presented during the live show. The truth is there are 86 categories and only about eight to 12 are presented during the show, so there is no way reggae will make it into that number. The pre-show, which is where the reggae Grammy is presented, has developed into a great event. Our nominated artistes are invited to attend and the winner will have their moment on stage. This pre-show is now being streamed live so a global audience can watch the proceedings. It is not like they don't respect reggae, as we have seen reggae artistes perform during the live show, but I just don't see us getting a live presentation,” Barber stressed.
The Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album was established in 1985. Originally called the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Recording, the honour was first won by reggae group Black Uhuru for the album Anthem. Beginning with the 1992 ceremony, the name of the award was changed to Best Reggae Album.
“The Grammy Award is still the most prestigious of its kind in the world, and artistes who win have been deserving, so it is therefore critical that we, as an industry,work to maintain our position. And, one can only lobby for change from the inside, so it is therefore critical that our artistes become members. One of the suggestions is that the academy rotates the awards presented during the live show. That can only be a reality if we work,” charged Barber.
Culture and Entertainment Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange has been among those making the call for the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album to be presented during the live television broadcast.
Just over a year ago Grange insisted that the music should be promoted to prime time coverage after 35 years and pledged to lead the charge.
“Reggae is featured in the main show many times, but is not treated as a category that is carried live. Now there are many other genres that are treated that way as well, so it is going to be a tough fight, but nothing is impossible. It's going to be a journey. It was a journey to even get reggae as a category in the Grammys years ago, but we achieved it. So, this is now the next stage. We are going to step it up. It won't be easy, but it isn't impossible,” she said during a press conference to congratulate Koffee, who had won the award.
Two years ago local music industry stalwarts Ibo Cooper and music producer Mikie Bennett agreed with Barber during an interview with the Jamaica Observer and noted that reggae still lacks the pull and power on the Grammy Awards, which is an American product, and therefore it is not likely that this will change any time soon.
“There are many categories that are not shown on live TV. What they consider the bigger categories in terms of the draw and popularity, based especially on the Billboard charts, are the ones which are highlighted. So polka, classical, jazz, children's music, and so on are the categories which reggae joins off-air. This has irked a lot of Jamaicans. What I like to say is the rappers and the hip hop artistes fought hard over the years until rap came to the main stage, but the difference is rap is still an American art form, while we are still just a guest,” Cooper explained.
“For me, the representatives of our genre just don't have that kind of pulling power,” Bennett added.
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