Musician Coalition Continues to Protest Grammy Category Changes

Protesters like music legend Carlos Santana believe that ethnic categories were unfairly targeted and eliminated.

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Carlos Sand Cindy Blackman Santana protest Grammy changes. (Google)

Nekesa Mumbi Moody of the Associated Press is reporting that a coalition of musicians is demanding that the Recording Academy restore more than 30 categories cut from the Grammy Awards, alleging that the reductions unfairly target ethnic music and were done without the input of its thousands of members. A protest was planned Thursday in Beverly Hills, Calif., at an academy board meeting.

It is part of a campaign by those upset by last month's decision to reduce the Grammy fields, which this year totaled 109, to 78. The academy announced the changes April 6; the move came after a more-than-yearlong examination of the awards structure, the first in the Grammys' 50-plus-year history.

Grammy President and CEO Neil Portnow said at the time that the changes would make the Grammys more competitive, and the awards more coveted. He also said that the changes would be in effect for the 2012 Grammys. He urged dissenters to work with the academy, which would examine the effect of the changes for the 2013 awards. Protesters are calling for Portnow's resignation after he said that the changes were set in stone, when in fact there is an opportunity for the changes to be reversed.

Legendary musicians Paul Simon, Carlos Santana and his wife, Cindy Blackman-Santana, wrote letters to protest the decision, which eliminates Latin jazz. Simon asked the academy to reconsider, because combining previously "distinct and separate types of music" into a catchall category is a disservice to artists.

Santana and his wife, who is also a musician, wrote, "To remove Latin Jazz and many other ethnic categories is doing a huge disservice to the brilliant musicians who keep the music vibrant for their fans -- new and old ... We strongly protest this decision and we ask you to represent all of the colors of the rainbow when it comes to music and give ethnic music a place in the heart of music lovers everywhere."

Bobby Sanabria, a four-time Latin-jazz nominee, who is working with musicians including Eddie Palmieri and Arturo O'Farrill, said that ethnic music was unfairly targeted, and called it a "subtle form of racism."

Subtle? Try blatant discrimination. Combining blues, folk and world music under one category -- three distinct styles of music -- is absurd. That's like combining country, classical and comedy in the same category -- it makes no sense. The Hollywood Reporter reported that the best Hawaiian, Native American and zydeco/Cajun music categories were being scrapped in favor of a single award for best regional roots music album. Other consolidations of two categories into single Grammys include hard rock/metal, regional Mexican/Tejano, banda/Norteno and children's album, which had awarded separate trophies for spoken word and musical. We won't even mention the instrumentalists, who have all but been eliminated.

If it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Portnow's apparent obliviousness to the changes is surprising, considering his past work with Jive Records. Clearly, they needed some input from outsiders to help in the decision-making process. We're all for reducing the bloat in the Grammy Awards, but there has to be a better way of doing that. Lumping together completely different types of music and cutting what looks like mostly "ethnic" music is not the way to go about it.

Read more at Yahoo News.

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