Grammy Update – December 2011

 On April 6, 2011 the Governing Board of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (The Grammys) announced the elimination of 31 categories. According to NARAS, the categories were eliminated to “tighten and create a parallel structure among the various fields.”

It is worth noting that the Governing Board met behind closed doors and dues paying members of the Academy were not informed of the meetings, or asked for their opinion in the decision making process.

Among the categories eliminated was Latin Jazz. After the initial shock the Latin music community joined forces, held press conferences, staged protests from coast to coast and mounted a media campaign that garnered international attention. Furthermore, a class action lawsuit was filed against NARAS by drummer, educator Bobby Sanabria, pianist Mark Levine and others, stating that the decision to eliminate the categories was racist and exclusionary. The lawsuit demands that the categories be reinstated.

In a recent development, members of NARAS requested a review of the minutes of the meetings that led to the elimination of the 31 categories and they received the following response from NARAS: “We are a foreign corporation established in Delaware and thus not subject to the California Corporate Code governing non-profits.”  As one NARAS member commented, “It makes you wonder what else they are hiding from their membership.”

One of the most vocal critics of the cuts is Carlos Santana, “Why do they only cut this music? I think they’re racist,” says Santana, “you can’t eliminate black gospel music or Hawaiian music or American Indian music or Latin jazz music, because all this music represents what the United States is: a social experiment.”

In another recent development, pianist, musical director, winner of the 2008 Best Latin Jazz Album and outspoken critic of the cuts, Arturo O’ Farrill was nominated this year in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble category for “40 Acres and a Burro” (Zoho).   “I’m extremely proud,” says, O’ Farrill, “to compete with big, big names is very healthy,” says O’ Farrill, “but it doesn’t bode well for us (Latin jazz musicians).  It would be an amazing vindication of our artistic integrity and the academy’s position of it leveling the playing field if any of the Latinos had a real shot at winning.” Saxophonist Miguel Zenon was also nominated in the same category for “Alma Adentro” (Marsalis Music).

Latin Jazz Network supports the upcoming Boycott of the 54th Annual Grammy Awards and is in solidarity with the 31 categories that were eliminated. We will continue to follow the thread and keep our readers informed of events as they occur.

Tomás Peña
Tomás Peña
A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject.

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