Words on World Music

It’s a small music world after all

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Kudos to world music blogger, Megan Romer at About.com for pointing out how quickly the world is shrinking, in the eyes of the Recording Academy following their radical restructuring of the award categories for the 54th annual Grammies coming up in February. Trophies for best Latin Jazz, Native American and Polka recordings have been given the axe, a major blow for accordion hounds worldwide. Say aloha to the Hawaiian Grammy as well. Traditional and contemporary world music categories have been lumped together making for some strange bedfellows. But, no ethnic community has been down-sized quite as harshly as Latinos from Mexico, Central and South America. The prestigious and important awards for recording artists who want to do any touring in North America like the Best Latin Pop, Latin Rock, Alternative and Urban have been squashed together in one measly category. Reggae still stands alone (which I never understood; I mean if there ever was a global rhythm it’s the drop beat of the working stiff everywhere). And, as Ms. Romer suggests, “I’m pretty sure it’s tucked away in the Grammy rules somewhere that at least two Marleys must be nominated each year in the Best Reggae category.” Both Stephen and Zigs are up for the prize this time around. What’s most cruel about the Academy’s cold hand of shrinkage on the global music member is a mere 4 nominees have been selected. Last year there were 10. The short, short list includes Afro Cubism, Femi Kuti’s Africa for Africa, Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Songs from a Zulu Farm and Tinariwen’s Tassili. Tinariwen’s striking visual presence and consistent North American touring seem to have captured the curiosity of the mainstream media, popping up for appearances on the uber-hip Colbert Report among others. In light of the Arab Spring movement which swept North Africa and the evocative tone of Tassili which was recorded in the open Algerian desert, I hope the academy sees fit to award them for their influence and relevance. At the end of the day though, Disney was right. It is a small world after all … and apparently getting smaller with each edition of the Grammy Awards.

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