'SOJA's win, no ambush'
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 on Sunday. (Photo: AP)
Cristy Barber lauds American band on Grammy win

VOTING member and former Reggae Committee head with the Grammys, Cristy Barber, is lauding American reggae band SOJA on their win in the Best Reggae Album category at Sunday's 64th staging of the event in Las Vegas, Nevada.

SOJA's Beauty in the Silence beat Spice (10), Gramps Morgan (Positive Vibrations), Sean Paul (Live N Livin), Etana (Pamoja), and Jesse Royal (Royal) for music industry's highest honour.

This was the 25-year-old SOJA's third nomination in the category. They were previously nominated for Live in Virginia (2017) and Amid the Noise and the Haste (2015), which peaked at number two on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart last October.

However, there have been dissenting voices, in some quarters, about SOJA's win. Others argue that the win is a wake-up call for reggae and dancehall practitioners.

Barber, a Grammy-nominated producer and 30-year music industry veteran, feels the American band – which she has worked with for the past decade – deserves the win and have applied themselves.

“I'm really shocked that people are shocked that SOJA got it. They're a band that's been around 25 years and they didn't just pop up. This is a movement that's been all over the world. I mean, reggae music is the most important genre in the world. We inspire nations, so it shouldn't shock people that people of other religions and colours want to pay homage to this industry, which is what I've done for 30 years. So, when I see them, I see me... With education comes truth. Quick to anger without education is a recipe for disaster. I've been on this soapbox for 18 years, trying to educate the reggae industry on how the Academy works. I'm still waiting on the masses to take heed,” Barber told the Jamaica Observer.

“I've been with them since 2012 when they got their deal with ATO Records and they actually sought me out to speak to me in regards to working more closely within the Jamaican reggae industry that they love so much. And the Grammy consideration came up and they've been students of the learn. Everything I've been saying for 18 years, they pay attention to everything. And they applied themselves and they did the work. So that's why they have three Grammy nominations and they finally got a win. They deserved it. They work very hard and they actually tour and sell more records than a lot of the artistes we have out of Jamaica,” she continued.

SOJA – based in Arlington, Virginia – is one of the top-selling reggae bands in America. Their albums consistently outsell their Jamaican counterparts, and they tour annually across the United States.

The group has four number one titles on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart, while their album sales have surpassed more than 200,000 copies in the United States. Their 2012 album Strength to Survive has sold more than 70,000 copies.

Barber cut her teeth working several reggae projects over the years in marketing, artiste and repertoire (A&R) and public relations at several labels throughout the years, including VP Records, Def Jamaica (Def Jam Records), Columbia Records, Republic Records, Tuff Gong and Ghetto Youths International.

She explained the process for persons to submit their music to the Academy.

“In order to submit a release for consideration, it has to be submitted by a record label, publisher, or media company that the Academy recognises or by a voting member. I submit for people every year as I have been a voting member for 18 years. Artistes should work an Academy exposure campaign into your project marketing plans right out the gate. Don't wait until voting opens,” she said.

Cristy Barber
BY KEVIN JACKSON Observer writer

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