Grammy winners set to boycott music awards

Grammy winners set to boycott music awards
Ziggy & Orly Marley.
Photo by Jan Saltzman

Controversy and the prevalence of protests in sports, politics and entertainment will not be elusive to the Grammy Awards.

The 59th annual music ceremony slated to air Feb. 12 is already garnering dissention with talents vowing to abstain from the gala proceedings.

Similar to last year’s actors’ boycott of the Academy Awards when an alleged lack of diversity spawned amplified discussion, protest and the absence of Oscar winners, this year the conversation has been focusing on political commentary related to the election of President Donald Trump.

Dominant during acceptance speeches at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards and the Golden Globes, winners have dedicated more than a few minutes to commentary related to the president’s position related to immigration, zenophobia, racism and misogyny.

Lady Gaga added to the chorus on Sunday when she performed at Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas.

She gave football fans a rousing halftime performance using drones to punctuate her position on the state of the country. Fans of the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots watched as the pop icon registered a stellar showcase beginning with the protest anthem –“This Land Is Your Land.”

For 13 whole minutes it seemed as if scores did not matter. From the top of the NRG Stadium to the field, the Hillary Clinton supporter in last year’s election used the time and venue to restate we are “one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

Although members of the music industry have consistently voiced dissent about the direction of the new government administration, politics might be just one of the reasons some music achievers will protests this year’s music awards ceremony.

Since announcement of the finalists last year, Jamaicans have been buzzing about the irrelevance of the Grammy awards.

In particular the contention has been that the Marley family has dominated winners of the Best Reggae Album category.

Jamaican reggae crooner and veteran singer Freddie McGregor issued a statement saying the Grammys were “an embarrassment of indescribable magnitude to reggae music.”

He aimed much of his ire to the National Association of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) and particularly Orly Agai Marley, a voting member who is also the wife of six-time Grammy winner Ziggy Marley.

Citing nepotism, he pointed to the fact Agai’s relationship to the eldest son of Bob and Rita Marley should disclaim her voting privilege.

An Israeli national of Iranian descent, Agai is mother to four of Ziggy’s children.

Born in Israel, Agai Marley’s family moved to Los Angeles, California when she was 14. She spent more than a decade at the William Morris talent agency, and now manages the career of the reggae benefactor.

“When we allow non-Jamaicans to be the judge of our own Jamaican music, we have certainly lost it, and the reggae Grammy is officially a toy and a plaything for the West Coast of the United States.”

McGregor’s “True To My Roots” album did not get enough votes to make it to the semi-final stage of eligible contenders.

Nominated in 2003 for “Anything For You” McGregor’s bid was lost to Lee Scratch Perry’s “Jamaican ET.”

The King of Reggae – Robert Nesta Marley was posthumously awarded a lifetime achievement honor five years after he died.

During his lifetime there was no single category dedicated to the genre Jamaicans introduced to the world.

Since the institution of the categoryin ‘85, every offspring of the legend connected to the music industry has either won or have been nominated for a Grammy – among them , his sons Julian and Kymani, multiple winner Damian, seven-time recipient Steven, six-time winner Ziggy and three-time winners, daughters Cedella and Sharon who boast golden rewards after backing their brothers as Melody Makers.

Bunny Wailer, a core member of the triumvirate to form the super-group Bob Marley & The Wailers won his first in 1991 for “Time Will Tell: A Tribute to Bob Marley.”

He also won in 1995 with “Crucial Roots Classics.”

Ironically the only surviving Wailer also scored a third victory in 1997 with “Hall of Fame: A Tribute to Bob Marley’s 50th Anniversary.”

Although more Jamaicans have won the category since it was first introduced in 1985 and the fact an American reggae band has never won the category, this year half of the six finalists represent non-Jamaicans and the others all hail from the USA.

They include Samoan-American J Boog, SOJA, a Virginia-based American assembly whose acronym identifies Soldiers of Jah Army and a California grouping known as Rebelution.

Devin Di Dakta, Raging Fyah and Ziggy Marley are the home-grown best vote achievers.

Female reggae recorders have consistently cited a gender bias against NARAS.

Despite the fact women regularly account for chart topping reggae hits and are regarded with royal titles, Bob Marley’s songbirds who recorded as I-Threes — among them — have never won a Grammy.

Neither Rita Marley, the revered queen of reggae, Marcia Griffith, the avowed empress of reggae nor the acclaimed high priestess Judy Mowatt have ever won the coveted music prize.

Mowatt became the first female reggae singer to be nominated for a Grammy Award when her “Working Wonders” album was acknowledged in 1986. That year, Jimmy Cliff won for his “Cliff Hanger.”

Bob Marley’s widow was nominated in 1992 for “We Must Carry On” but that era’s dancehall king Shabba Ranks scored his first of a back-to-back streak with “As Raw As Ever.”

Sister Carol, renowned internationally as Mother Culture and the Black Cinderella remains one of only three females to ever win consideration from NARAS’ illustrious voters of the reggae album category. Her 1997 “Lyrically Potent” Marion Hall, a former dancehall deejay popularly known as Lady Saw scored a Grammy win in 2002 when she collaborated with pop recorders No Doubt. Her contribution of a rap sequence on a track titled “Underneath It All” earned the miniature gramophone that eluded her throughout her storied career as a reggae dancehall deejay.

She now performs in the gospel genre.

A boycott by top Grammy winners and nominees Drake, Kanye West, Justin Bieber and Frank Ocean is also at the center of this year’s showcase.

The pop music idols announced recently that they will skip the honors acclaimed to being the world’s most prestigious music measure deciding hits.

The four talents claim the annual presentation and choices are and have been “irrelevant.”

West, a top nominee with eight, already owns 21 Grammys.

He cites racism as his reason for the protest. He said he has never won when he contended against a white artist and will not attend the ceremony for that very reason.

Canadian Bieber who is nominated for four awards already made plans to be far away from the 59th annual black-tie ceremonies.

“He just doesn’t think the Grammys are relevant or representative, especially when it comes to young singers,” his spokesperson said.

“There’s no real anger; it’s just that a lot of younger singers are of the opinion that the Grammys are out of touch and arguably irrelevant.”

Fellow Canadian, 30-year-old Drake, with eight nominating nods to add to his coveted miniature, golden, gramophones said he will neither walk the red carpet nor take the stage at the Staples Center this year.

Although “One Dance” his album could yield a multiplicity of honors, like Bieber, Drake will sit-out the celebrated ceremony.

Ocean described the annual as a “dinosaur.”

Probably frustrated with the process deciding nominations, he reportedly did not even bother to submit his album ”Blonde” for consideration, despite the fact many claim it was the best one of 2016.

He too feels that the ceremony fails to adequately represent Black musicians.

“That institution certainly has nostalgic importance. It just doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from, and hold down what I hold down,” the 29-year-old told the New York Times.

“I think the infrastructure of the awarding system and the nomination system and screening system is dated. I’d rather this be my Colin Kaepernick moment for the Grammys than sit there in the audience.”

Kaepernick is the football player who has consistently defied the practice of standing for the national anthem because he believes it does not represent reality.

Tune in to CBS on Feb. 12 at 8 pm for winners and perhaps a bit of drama.

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