When the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences -- the organization that gives out Grammy Awards -- eliminated 31 categories from the awards process last month, it seemed like a modest step toward streamlining an event many believe has become overwrought and out-of-touch.
But a community of musicians in the Bay Area and elsewhere is petitioning to reverse the change, saying the elimination of awards categories like Latin Jazz and Traditional World will deprive gifted musicians and entire musical cultures of recognition.
Led by five-time Grammy-nominated producer and musician John Santos, a number of Bay Area musicians held a press conference at Yoshi's in Oakland yesterday morning to voice their opposition to the change.
From their announcement:
The ill-advised early April announcement by NARAS to cut thirty-one categories from the celebrated Grammy awards has been met with shock and loud protests nationally and internationally. Latin Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Cajun, Zydeco, Hawaiian, Polka, Traditional World, and certain gospel, Blues, R&B, and Mexican
categories, among others, have all been unceremoniously dumped.
At various regional chapter meetings, NARAS has defended the cuts as being fair and well thought out, although they were made behind closed doors with no input from the membership nor from the respective boards of governors of the regional chapters, and clearly cater to the established pop and commercial styles that have always dominated the awards and its controversial annual TV show.
One of the statements presented at yesterday's press conference came from Carlos Santana and his wife, Cindy Blackman Santana:
The biggest and most irresponsible cut to us is that you have eliminated Latin Jazz. Apparently the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences down-sizing (even though no categories were removed from the awards) is simply a bad move and makes us wonder if you are doing this for other motives.
Without Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie, João Gilberto and countless others, there would be no Santana. These Latin Jazz artists helped launch and craft countless genres of American and World music and are just as vibrant today as they were at any other point in history. To remove Latin Jazz and many other ethnic categories is doing a huge disservice to the brilliant musicians who keep the music vibrant for their fans - new and old.
What do you think? Are the musicians right to complain? Are there better ways to streamline the Grammys?
[h/t | East Bay Express]