Reggae — Work in progress
SOJA, winners of the award for Best Reggae Album for Beauty in the Silence, pose in the press room at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas recently. (Photo: AP)

NEARLY 40 years after the Grammy Award in the reggae category was first presented, music insider and entertainment attorney Lloyd Stanbury is expressing disappointment with where reggae has reached in this international award.

“When you look at the strides reggae has made internationally over the years and the development of offshoots — given birth to babies such as dancehall and reggaeton — the reggae category is still relegated to the sideshow where the nominees are not featured and our performers never get the opportunity to showcase their talents on the main stage and get their just accolades,” he argued.

After years of lobbying, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) added the Best Reggae Recording category in 1986. The first winner of the reggae Grammy was Black Uhuru for Anthem.

The category was later renamed Best Reggae Album.

Stanbury lays the lion’s share of the blame for reggae’s stagnation at the Grammys on the reggae community itself, which he said has not put their collective muscle behind the music, but instead have been content to remain on the sidelines.

LLoyd Stanbury (Photo: Sista Irie Photography)

“We are a nation of complainers. More specifically, the supporters of Jamaican music have just sat down and complained each year. Real change can only come when we start to make our positions known in the right places and there are so many Jamaicans in the music industry who are are qualified to take our positions to the seat of power by becoming a member of NARAS [organisers of the Grammy Awards]. By becoming members of the various committees, we can guide the process, if not the members of these committees will do as they please. So the main blame has to be with the reggae community who have chosen not to spend this (US)$100 to become members of the Academy. Until we do so, things will remain as they are,” said Stanbury.

He noted that over the years, there has been a lot of critique of the category and the nominees. He said the discussion has included the need for dancehall as a distinct category.

“I think this all started with Shabba’s nomination and wins as it was seen as not strictly a reggae project. This also points to a misunderstanding of the process, as so many see the win as being based on public opinion or sales. So they are happy when a very popular album is nominated and unhappy when it doesn’t win. Not understanding that it is based on what the members of the Academy vote for.”

Reggae’s position at the Grammy Awards was put further under the microscope following this year’s presentation where the Best Reggae Album award went to American band SOJA for their project Beauty in the Silence. This revived calls for more local awards shows to recognise the work of our artistes.

While Stanbury supports the call for locally produced awards shows, he was quick to point out there have been many such awards over the year, but they have all failed due to a lack of support from the local music community.

“It is this same community which stands in the way of the efforts to establish our own awards. Right now, we only have IRAWMA [International Reggae and World Music Awards] and the JaRIA [Jamaica Reggae Industry Association] Honour Awards. We do not support our own. We had established the Reggae Academy (2008) which was modelled after NARAS, with members voting on the nominees and the eventual winners. This only lasted one year. The reggae community is the one that prevents our own institutions from thriving,” he added.

Richard Johnson

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