The Grammys buries Best Native American Music Category


–Now we need The Nammys more than ever

 By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

The Recording Academy, which produces the annual Grammy awards, has announced a major restructuring in how the organization will recognize accomplishments by musicians across North America, reducing total categories from 109 to 78, and eliminating the Best Native American Music Album category altogether.

This development underscores the importance of the Native American Music Association (NAMA) and The Nammys as the nation’s most vital resource serving the musicians and the audiences of Indian Country, second to none in its mission to provide greater opportunity and recognition for traditional and contemporary Native American musicians, and linking to indigenous cultures and audiences the world over.

Press releases issued by the Recording Academy indicate that someone over there thinks that this is good news for musicians, for the listening public, and for the cultural traditions that generate the new music.

For Indian Country, the blockheaded recategorization is particularly offensive, marginalizing Native American accomplishments into a category freshly titled “Best Regional Roots Music Album.”

The new “Best Regional Roots Music Album” Grammy is a catchall category where former candidates for “Best Hawaiian Music Album”, “Best Native American Music Album”, “Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album” will compete for the “Roots” Grammy title.

However, a note appended to the release dilutes the category even further: “NOTE: This category is intended to recognize recordings of regionally based traditional music, including but not limited to (italics added) Hawaiian, Native American, polka, zydeco and Cajun music.”

In essence, the Grammys consider “regionally based traditional music” an apt descriptor for the vastly fertile and complex grooves streaming up from the lands and cultures of Indigenous peoples.

In contrast, the Native American Music Awards (the Nammys), currently recognizes 30 distinct genres of music emerging from Indian Country, and plans to add more as strength in other musical styles grows with time and accomplishment.

The Grammy announcement includes this load of hooey from the President:

“Every year, we diligently examine our Awards structure to develop an overall guiding vision and ensure that it remains a balanced and viable process,” said President/CEO Neil Portnow. “After careful and extensive review and analysis of all Categories and Fields, it was objectively determined that our GRAMMY Categories be restructured to the continued competition and prestige of the highest and only peer-recognized award in music. Our Board of Trustees continues to demonstrate its dedication to keeping The Recording Academy a pertinent and responsive organization in our dynamic music community.”

This decision by the Recording Academy recalls Alex Haley’s maxim that “History is written by the winners.”

Clearly, this development underscores the importance of supporting the Native American Music Association and its awards program, The Nammys.

About 1000nations

Sean Aaron Cruz is Executive Director of 1000 Nations and a co-founder of The Friends of Celilo Falls. He is the organizer of the Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival. He is co-author of Winona LaDuke's new book, "The Militarization of Indian Country." He is the father of four children who disappeared into Utah in a Mormon abduction in 1996, and the author of Oregon's landmark anti-kidnapping statute "Aaron's Law" (Senate Bill 1041), named for his late son Aaron Cruz. He writes online as Blogolitical Sean.
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