One step at a time… I guess!
It’s no secret that for many years the Recording Academy, commonly known as the Grammys, has regrettably overlooked the inclusion of African artists within its illustrious award ceremonies. Traditionally, these artists have been grouped together under the generic label of ‘global music’. African music genres, such as Soukous, Makosa, Afrobeats, Amapiano, Juju, Fuji, Highlife, Hiplife, South African Jazz, Ethio Jazz, Bongo Flava, Kwaito, Township Music, Chimurenga, Mbalax, Isicathamiya, Goombay, Bubu and African folk or traditional music are homogenised and subsumed under Global Music failing to capture the profound essence and intricacies of African musical traditions.
It seems that after waiting for what seemed like forever, the Recording Academy has finally begun its journey towards recognizing the profound breadth of African Music. At a meeting in May, the trustees voted to introduce the Best African Music Performance category alongside the highly anticipated accolades for Best Alternative Jazz Album and Best Pop Dance Recording. This significant decision signifies a notable paradigm shift, reflecting the Academy’s burgeoning appreciation for the vast and extraordinary musical tapestry woven by African artists.
“These changes reflect our commitment to actively listen and respond to the feedback from our music community, accurately represent a diverse range of relevant musical genres, and stay aligned with the ever-evolving musical landscape,” Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. said.
But we aren’t quite there yet, musicians specializing in any of those genres will still be battling it out for just one measly slot. Seriously? that’s like trying to fit an entire buffet into a tiny snack box. If you compare this decision with the establishment of the Best Reggae, this category was treated as distinct, separate from other genres like calypso, soca, or chutney which hold popularity in Trinidad and the wider Caribbean. Furthermore, the Grammys have dedicated five categories to Latin music encompassing Best Latin Pop Album, Best Musica Urbana Album, Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album, Best Regional Mexican Music Album and Best Tropical Latin Album.
Out of their whopping 91 categories, the Grammys only allocated 2 categories for non-Western music, calling it ‘Global Music’. We’ve got the Best Global Music Performance and Best Global Music Album. Now, they’ve introduced Best African Music Performance, making it a grand total of three! Bravo, Grammys’, but you’re still missing a beat. Where’s the love for the Best African Music Album? African artists with killer albums still have to tango with musicians from Asia under the Best Global Music Album category, yet, these artists make completely different music that just can’t be compared because it adheres to completely different audiences.
The introduction of the Best African Music Performance category is a start, but it’s time to turn up the volume and give the Grammys the universal recognition they crave. Let the music celebration truly embrace the beautiful melodies of our global village.
They say that the journey of 1,000 miles starts with one step and the Grammys’ have a long way to get where we all need them to be.