Bruce Springsteen had been asked to voice his support for restoring the eliminated 31 categories. He opened the Awards show and exited the stage without a word. Truthfully, I was disappointed.
The protest, however, continued outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where the Awards ceremony was held. It was not disruptive. It did not try to keep people from enjoying the Grammys. But Bobby Sanabria, Ronnie Ciago, Oscar Hernandez, John Santos, and others were not going to let the issues be ignored.
Approximately 70 musicians, accompanied by their supporters, gathered with signs and music as the Grammy ceremonies got started with the red carpet flash and bang. From there, the group went to Mama Juana's Night Club for a Grammy Alternative Music Fest.
Below are news reports from various sources and a press release regarding the events of the day.
Foxnews.com: Intrigue, Drama and Music Combacks Expected at the Grammys. February 12, 2012.
The Grammy telecast lasts three and a half hours and about 10 awards are given out; the bulk of them are doled out during a pre-telecast. This year, the total number of Grammys was cut from 109 to 78 after a major overhaul last year. Some specific categories were deleted and put in new, broader categories, to the outrage of some who have said the move disenfranchised them. A lawsuit has been filed and a protest is planned outside the Staples Center while celebrities file inside.
Over the past year, several musicians have voiced their dismay about the reductions, from Herbie Hancock to Paul Simon to Carlos Santana to even the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
The Foos' Dave Grohl called the cuts "unfortunate." "I don't know why they did it. It's unfortunate. Everybody is downsizing everything these days," he said in an interview last month. "I don't know why they cut so many."
Still, there hasn't been a huge outcry about the changes, which include the elimination of separate vocal categories by gender, from mainstream stars. The Academy hasn't budged in its position on the cuts and Portnow said a Thursday protest outside the academy offices shows the lack of general support for the protests.
"I think the most significant info I can give you from the protest today was the number of participants," he said, citing what he called a small crowd. "I don't know that there's anything more to say than that."
Portnow's response is pathetic. He continually reveals himself to be a person with no concern for the music.
Presente.org Press Release for February 12, 2012
LOS ANGELES: Robert Sax – (818) 427-1369, email@example.com
NEW YORK : Sarah Bisconte – (914) 310-0467, firstname.lastname@example.org
LOS ANGELES: Roberto Lovato (213) 820-8424 email@example.com
NEW YORK: Blair Fitzgibbon – (202) 503-6141, Blair@fitzgibbonmedia.com
Presente.org and GRAMMYWatch.org Protest PORTNOW & GRAMMY Awards For Devastating Decision to Delete 31 Categories of “Roots Music”
Musicians continue to fight, supported by broad coalition of communities and 23,000 petition signers
LOS ANGELES ( February 12, 2012) -- In a collective show of strength and unity, musicians representing Latin jazz, rock, blues, world and Native American music, fans of diverse musical genres, and community leaders protested today outside
Staples Center, site of the 54th GRAMMY awards ceremony. They demanded the immediate restoration of music and cultural diversity to the GRAMMY awards by re-instituting all 31 GRAMMY music categories that were eliminated in April 2011 by GRAMMY president Neil Portnow and a small group of top executives of the National Association of Recording Artists (NARAS.) Some of these categories include: Latin jazz, traditional and contemporary blues, Hawaiian, Mexican Norteña, polka. Native American, R & B, gospel, traditional and contemporary jazz and Cajun/Zydeco.
Speakers and community members also denounced the anti-democratic way in which the decision was made, as none of NARAS' 21,000 voting members were consulted.
Following the protest the musicians and the community celebrated with a concert held from 5:00 pm-8:00 pm at the world-renowned Mama Juana's nightclub in Studio City. The concert featured music representative of the 31 genres that were eliminated. An all-star band led by Ray Carrion was joined by many top Latin jazz musicians, including GRAMMYWatch organizers Sandy Cressman, Bobby Matos, John Santos (multiple GRAMMY nominee), Bobby Sanabria (multiple GRAMMY nominee,) and multiple GRAMMY award-winner Oscar Hernandez.
Bobby Matos, a leader in the GRAMMYWatch movement to reinstate the deleted categories stated, “The incredible response to our call for musical justice demonstrates that our movement to reinstate the 31 categories has deep roots, roots that are growing. Viewers from across the country watching the GRAMMYs on Sunday didn't just see the staged show Neil Portnow and the GRAMMY organization, NARAS, wanted the world to see. They saw musicians, they saw communities, they saw a growing movement to preserve music that roots most music that was awarded tonight” said Matos
Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente.org, the largest online Latino advocacy organization in the country and one of the main organizers of the protest, said: “Presente.org and its thousands of members joined forces with the musicians in order to tell Mr. Portnow and NARAS that they will cannot simply render our music irrelevant and think that we will simply stand by
and leave the musicians alone. Far from it. With more than 23,000 petition signers and lots of boots on the ground protesting the elimination of these categories, it's very clear that we have a vibrant and growing movement to reinstate not just the 31 categories, but the self respect and dignity that comes with fighting for what we believe in. Portnow and NARAS are acting out of greed, but are inspiring us to defend what matters most: the culture and spirituality we find in our music.”
For more information and public statements of support from music luminaries calling for all 31 GRAMMY cuts to be restored immediately, please visit www.GRAMMYWatch.org.
Established in 2009, Presente.org, with more than a quarter million members, is a major national organization dedicated to amplifying the political voices of Latino communities in the United States. For more information, please visit www.presente.org
GRAMMYWatch.org is calling on NARAS to immediately restore the 31 eliminated categories. The group has held protest rallies and press conferences in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Members of the group include GRAMMY nominees and winners.
On August 1, 2011, four Latin jazz musicians, Bobby Sanabria, Mark Levine, Doctors Benjamin Lapidus and Eugene Marlow, filed a historic, class action lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against NARAS for the elimination of the Latin jazz GRAMMY category. For more information, including a copy of the lawsuit, please visit www.GRAMMYwatch.org.
DemocracyNow! Report from democracynow.org. February 13, 2012
Dozens of musicians demonstrated outside the Grammy Awards on Sunday protesting the Recording Academy’s decision to eliminate dozens of ethnic music award categories, including Hawaiian, Haitian, Cajun, Latin jazz, contemporary blues and regional Mexican. Some protesters see racial bias in the revisions, others see them as harmful to low-budget indie labels. Last August, four Latin jazz artists filed a lawsuit with the New York Supreme Court claiming that the dropping of such categories had adversely affected their careers. They also said the academy was violating its "contractual obligations" to its 21,000 members.
We speak [sic] to Oscar Hernández, founder of the Grammy Award-winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra, and Roberto Lovato, co-founder of Presente.org, which helped organize the protest and petition signed by more than 20,000. "[The Grammys have] given me the credibility that I need to go forward to do what I do, to do the music that I love, and gave me the stamp of credibility across many boundaries," Hernández said. "I’ve traveled all over the world playing my music. And it’s an important part of what we do, for sure."
Below is the Link for the Democracy Now! Interview with Oscar Hernandez.
New York Times Article Snippet from newyorktimes.com.
February 13, 2012
The ceremony this year was marred by a controversy over the recording academy’s decision to cut or consolidate 31 categories, bringing the number of awards down to 78, from 109.
Contending that the Grammys had become bloated and too easy to win in some categories, the trustees, led by the recording academy’s president, Neil R. Portnow, eliminated separate awards for male and female singers and did away with individual awards for genres like Latin jazz, Hawaiian music, zydeco and American Indian music. The board also combined contemporary
and traditional awards for blues, folk and world music.
Critics have charged the cutbacks hurt musicians working in less lucrative genres and had the effect of discriminating against
some ethnic minorities. Latin Jazz musicians have led the protests, filing a suit in New York, submitting a petition to the academy with 23,000 names and organizing a rally on Sunday outside the Staples Center.
In the end, only a handful of musicians showed up to protest the cuts, gathering about three blocks north of the Staples Center and chanting “Que viva la diversidad,” or “Up with diversity.” Bobby Sanabria, a Latin percussionist said: “The Grammy Awards are not what it used to be. Now it’s a dog and pony show for the mega stars. It used to be about excellence in music."
Billboard.biz: Latin Jazz Musicians Protest Grammy Awards,
L.A. Mayor Supportive Of Artists
Latin jazz musicians protested with signs and loud music outside the Grammy Awards on Sunday as they continued their nearly yearlong fight to reinstate 31 categories which were eliminated by the Recording Academy in 2011.
About 70 artists and their supporters took to the streets near the Staples Center while the Grammy pre-telecast was taking
place. After the demonstration the group was scheduled to perform at a showcase at Mama Juana's nightclub in Studio City as a way to celebrate their music, show unity and send a message to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) that rallying will continue to bring back the categories.
Grammy Awards Protest Planned By Musicians During Sunday's Show
"We're creating public awareness more than anything else," said Bobby Matos, a longtime Latin jazz musician. "We're not here to stop here anybody from entering the Grammys. We're just hoping that NARAS realizes that they made a mistake. In a perfect world they would reverse their decision today, do it on the air and announce a (special) concert for those categories."
Recently at a Grammy event, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villraigosa said he understands what the musicians are going through.
"I love Latin jazz and I love salsa" Villaraigosa said. "I understand that what people are looking for is inclusion. We've got to celebrate that."
Bruce Springsteen, who opened the 54th Grammy Awards, was sent a memo asking him to acknowledge the group during the telecast, said Bobby Matos, a protesting musician.
Roberto Lovato, co-founder of the Latino advocacy group presente.org, said that there has been outreach to NARAS president Neil Portnow, but nothing has been resolved.
"It's going to take the opening of the heart and the mind and Neil Portnow and the small group of cronies that made this decision," Lovato said. "They need to take a moment to take their eyes off all the glitter, the money and look at the roots (of the
music eliminated). This is about the future of music in the United States."
Lovato said he also wants to see Springsteen to stand up for the musicians affected by the eliminations. Additionally, he wants to see Portnow take action.
"Grammy has taken the route of greed and inequity," Lovato said. "Greed and inequity is not what gave birth to Whitney Huston who started off as a gospel singer, one of the categories eliminated. We're happy that she's being embraced, but we also
embrace Whitney Houston as one of our own. She started in our communities, in our churches, in our neighborhoods before she entered the limelight of the Grammys."
Matos said that group is not going to be happy until the group gets their categories back, adding that the cuts severely affects the careers of many musicians.
On Thursday (Feb. 9) a group of Latin jazz musicians delivered areported 23,000 signatures at the Recording Academy headquarters to show the support from music fans across the nation.
After last year's April announcement to eliminate the categories, which affects several genres, Latin jazz musicians Ben Lapidus, Mark Levine, Eugene Marlow and Bobby Sanabria filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court in New York. The complaint indicates musicians are being harmed by the elimination of their category in a breach by NARAS' "contractual obligations."
During an interview with Billboard.biz last week, Portnow conveyed his dissatisfaction with the lawsuit and protests.
"We prefer those that work with us," Portnow said. "For those who take a hard line with lawsuits and protests, that's their hoice. It wouldn't be my preference as a way to work together." The Rev. Jesse Jackson recently said he was concerned about cuts
and sent a letter to Portnow over the elimination of categories that went from 109 to 78, changes that included the end of gender-based categories in pop, R&B, rock and country. The Academy also eliminated separate awards for male or female vcals instead having an award in each genre for a single "solo performance."
mediabistro.com/fishbowlla: Musicians Protest Outside Grammy Awards Over Ethnic Category Eliminations. February 13, 2012.
About 70 artists and their supporters took to the streets near the Staples Center while the Grammy pre-telecast was taking place. After the demonstration the group was scheduled to perform at a showcase at Mama Juana’s nightclub in Studio City as a way to celebrate their music, show unity and send a message to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) that rallying will continue to bring back the categories.
At a recent Grammy event, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa expressesed sympathy for the protestors. “I understand that what people are looking for is inclusion,” Villaraigosa said. “We’ve got to celebrate that.”