After the many years of hard work and politicking to establish a “Cajun-Zydeco” category at the Grammys, NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences—the organization that presents the Grammys) announced that they had eliminated this category, along with many others, including Traditional Blues. Last year there were 109 categories; for the upcoming year, there will only be 78 categories. On April 6, Neil Portnow, NARAS’ current chairman, announced the cuts, with rationales:
What this essentially does is to eliminate a lot of the “indie” categories that made up roughly 28 percent of the total awards. A pretty severe sweep, if you ask me. I don’t know if any of you readers have ever attended the Grammy awards, but I have and this is what I took away from it: the bulk of the awards are presented at a much smaller, non-televised event that’s held in a side room of the Staples Center before the televised brouhaha. It was really great to see small, under-appreciated musicians and bands take home a “prestigious” Grammy. Heart-warming, really. This is where I saw Terrance Simien take home the first-ever Grammy award for Cajun-Zydeco music, one of only three ever awarded.
The extravaganza you see on television is really just a big show highlighting the winners and potential winners in the categories that are mainstream, played on commercial radio and promoted the most by their record labels and hypesters. This is where the money is made from music, and the show pays homage to that. All the musicians who make all kinds of music and who are hoping for the prestige of a Grammy are really behind the scenes because—let’s face it—those little Cajun/zydeco/traditional blues/Tejano/Latin jazz/contemporary jazz/polka, etc. etc. are not the real money-makers. Who is going to buy commercial airtime for a Grammy Awards show that features niche artists like these? It’s all about the money, people, and don’t ever let anyone tell you anything different.
Well, did this stir up a storm of controversy! Made Mojo Mouth columns look like small change. Apparently this caused such a stir that a website was set up to try to reverse the Academy’s decision. You can even sign a petition to try to reinstate the eliminated categories. I’m siding with the indie peeps, but frankly, I’m not holding my breath. Musical artistry reduced to what “sells.” Sad, so sad. But what else is new?