Many Caribbean people look forward to the annual Grammy Awards to see who will take the coveted prize of Best Reggae Album award. Even though the Recording Academy provides a space for the genre to be heard and recognized, it’s still not doing enough for music coming out of Jamaica, according to David Hinds and bassist Amlak Tafari of Steel Pulse.
The pair spoke with the Jamaica Gleaner and shared their thoughts about what they think needs to be done to add true diversity to the category and make it fair for music producers coming out of Jamaica. Steel Pulse won the third ever Reggae Grammy in 1987.
Firstly, there needs to be the proper classification of the genre because Reggae attacks so many different topics and is very versatile. Hinds said that some artists sing about political topics while others prefer to sing about love, so he questioned how could those two types of songs be judged in the same category.
“I mean, how exactly can you compare Maxi Priest with a Burning Spear or a Shabba Ranks with a Steel Pulse? The music each of us produce is different. Yuh have dancehall people who want to win a Grammy but, basically, call it game over if their album gets nominated with a Marley for the Reggae Grammy, and I don’t think that is fair,” he said.
Tafari shared similar sentiments but added that Koffee winning the award last year was a move in a positive direction. He was not a member of Steel Pulse when they copped the prize in 1987. He added that Koffee’s selection showed that the Academy was keeping up with the developments in Reggae. He agreed with his counterpart that all artistes coming out of Jamaica shouldn’t be lumped together in one category.
“That is what I personally would love to see changed. I want the category to reflect the different aspects of reggae coming out of Jamaica and the diaspora because some people listen to dancehall, some people listen to roots, some people listen to lover’s rock, and they are not the same thing,” he said.
He went on to say that even though Stephen Marley deservedly won many awards over the years, it was unfair to other artists in the genre who don’t sing along the same lines as Marley. Both musicians said they believed the only way to truly change the mindset behind the category is for the change to begin on the ground in Jamaica. They’ve also mentioned their thoughts to members of the Academy.
“I had this same conversation with some members of the Recording Academy about a year and a half ago, and they stated that honestly, they were glad for the input I had to offer because they find that when it comes to the reggae side of things, they cannot get no input from the artistes to make any adjustments,” said Hinds.
He called on the music union to teach the artistes more about how to get involved. Tafari also said he believed this was the best way forward.
“You can make an album and it nice and thing, but yuh affi become more familiar with the Recording Academy process. Knowledge and timing is key in this Grammy race,” he added.