Before you think that this is a good thing, consider the categories being rejected. Best Female Solo Vocal Performance and Best Male Solo Vocal Performance are being merged into one award, Best Solo
Vocal Performance. Best Instrumental Rock Performance is being completely eliminated.
That category alone is reason enough to protest. Think of the past winners from this category. Jeff Beck holds the record at six Grammys. Also receiving the award were Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Frank Zappa, Yes, Paul McCartney and Wings, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, the Chemical Brothers and Sting.
Other categories dropped were in Latin Jazz and World Music categories. But one of the most truly disgusting elements of this debacle is that NARAS has announced that they will induct the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Sergio Mendes' Brasil '66 and Big Bill Broonzy in the Grammy Hall of Fame. While they are congratulating themselves for doing this, they are also rejecting the categories represented by these great contributors. Broonzy was a Blues composer and artist. Sergio Mendes' Brasil '66 actually won a Grammy in a category that is now gone. Dr. King's beloved Gospel categories have been decimated. Hypocrites.
On April 6, 2011 NARAS President Neil Portnow made the decision to eliminate these categories without the advice or knowledge of the 21,000 members of the organization or their elected representatives. Portnow's manner in the way he carried this out has violated NARAS' own by-laws and procedures. The Grammys were supposed to celebrate musical diversity. NARAS has decided to snub diversity.
On Thursday, February 9, however, musicians and music aficianados decided to protest at NARAS Headquarters in Santa Monica, CA. The protestors spoke before the headqurters. Drummer Ronnie Ciago addressed the issue with these words: "My name is Ronnie Ciago. I am the drummer, percussionist and composer with world-renowned instrumental progressive rock
band called "Brand X"--the new Brand X line-up including David Sancious. The Grammy Committee wants to eliminate "Instrumental Rock" from its categories. I am asking the Grammy Committee to please reconsider and keep our true culture alive. Taking out Instrumental Rock is like taking George Washington out of our history books. We need to continue to learn and grow with diversity. To name just a few who have already condemned the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences' actions are: Herbie Hancock, Eddie Palmieri, Paul Simon, Carlos Santana, Bill Cosby, Bonnie Raitt, Stanley Clarke and many others. We are also extremely encouraged by the support by Rev. Jesse Jackson. I applaud you and thank you for your support."
Joining the Rev. Jackson in support was Professor Cornell West of Union Theological Seminary. Following the statements, the assembled supporters presented NARAS with 23,000 signatures condemning the removal of the 31 categories.
Earlier this week, Neil Portnow dismissed the protest with the words, "You can't make everybody happy..." While that sentiment may be true when discussing what categories should be added, it is condescension at its worst when one is discussing the elimination of established categories.
However, when he received a letter from the Rev. Jackson, Portnow responded with, “We are receptive to meeting with the Rev. Jackson to explain how our nomination process works and to show the resulting diverse group of nominees it produced for the 54th Grammys - many in the musical genres he cited in his letter,” Portnow said. “We also agree with the Rev. Jackson that the Grammys are about music, not sales. They have, and always will, stand for excellence in music and celebrating the impact all music has on our culture.”
"All Music?" All music except for the music in 31 categories, apparently.
Inez Gonzalez, Executive Vice-President of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, gave full-throated support to the protest.
"Under President Neil Portnow's leadership, NARAS has failed in its mission to honor, propagate and nurture all forms of American born music and to educate the general public about all genres, not giving preference to one over the other," Gonzalez said. "This action not only reduces diversity on the Grammys show, but most importantly it negatively impacts the musicians' careers."
John Santos, Latin Jazz composer, percussionist and five time Grammy nominee was especially hurt. His nominations were in categories that have all been discarded under Portnow's direction. Santos writes: "For me this is personal. My five nominations over a 40 year career were in three categories that have all been eliminated. I have been a NARAS member for some 25 years,
supporting the organization...While the progress has been slow at least it was progress--until now. This disrespectful mandate sets the organization, civil rights, and creative expression back several decades."
Secretly, administrators and staff at NARAS have admitted that the move was a wrong one. However, nobody is speaking up to Portnow.
In another display of rank hypocrisy, on February 1, 2012 Portnow posted a blog on the passing of Don Cornelius by writing the following: "Don Cornelius created a cultural phenomenon with “Soul Train,” providing a platform for recording artists to showcase their talents to a wider, more diverse audience."
Isn't that what the Grammys were supposed to do; to showcase diverse music to a diverse audience? But this decision hurts
that diversity because it is ruinous to smaller labels. It inhibits the exposure that comes from recognition. Personally, there are some artists that I would never have encountered and, therefore, never bought their CDs were it not for what I saw and heard from the Grammys.
While the Grammys are being doled out. The protestors will be having a jam of their own. The "Not Those Awards All-Star Latin Jazz Jam" will take place following a protest rally at Staples Centerin Los Angeles. The concert will be held at Mama Juana’s nightclub in Studio City starting at 4:00 p.m. Ray Carrion and His Latin Jazz All Stars will be joined by many special guests including two-time GRAMMY winner Oscar Hernandez, multiple GRAMMY nominee John Santos, Bobby Matos, Dr. Bobby Rodriguez and Susie Hansen.
The "Not Those Awards All-Star Latin Jazz Jam" is open to the public. A $10 donation is requested. Mama Juana’s is located at 3707 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Studio City, CA, 91604.
News updates of the protest and the ever-expanding guest list for the Jam can be found at http://www.grammywatch.org
The protest has begun in Santa Monica but it is not too late to join in support of those recording artists most hurt by the disregarding of the 31 categories. You can join by emailing NARAS at http://www.grammy.com/contact or email Neil Portnow himself at Neil@Grammy.com.
CBS is televising the Grammy Awards. Tell CBS of your protest for the loss of the 31 categories at: http://www.cbs.com/info/user_services/fb_global_form.php. or phone in your remarks to: CBS Headquarters 1-212-975-4321
You really can support musicians in ways other than buying the CDs. Buy the CDs but lend your voice!