ONCE Damian “Junior Gong” Marley was announced winner of the Best Reggae Album at Sunday's Grammy Awards in New York City discussions began in earnest, with mixed reactions to the latest victory by another member of the the Marley family.
He previously won Best Reggae Album in 2001 (Halfway Tree) and 2005 (Welcome to Jamrock).
From living rooms to verandahs and on social media the discussions raged, with some claiming that once there is a Marley nominated in the category, it is an automatic win. Others who were rooting for Chronixx, the current front-runner in the reggae revival movement, expressed disappointment that Marley's Stony Hill project got the nod over Chronology.
Music insider and attorney Lloyd Stanbury is rubbishing the idea that name recognition gave Marley the edge over the field.
“I listened to all the albums which were up for the Reggae Grammy this year. A lot of the people who talk don't listen to the music and they don't understand how the Grammys work... what is the process. Damian is most deserving of the win, no question about that. People have to understand that the Grammys is not a popularity contest nor is it determined by sales. It is the members of the academy — singers, songwriters, producers... persons involved in the process of making music, who vote on what they like. They decide on what they think should be named Best Reggae Album. So once you understand that, all the talk should become irrelevant,” Stanbury told the Jamaica Observer.
“The truth is Chronixx elevated himself to a point where the name recognition thing for the Marleys this year really becomes irrelevant. He has really put himself out there in the spotlight so that almost everyone in the music industry knows who he is. He did major festivals on both sides of the Atlantic, toured with Nas and Lauryn Hill, and appeared on major US television shows. But Damian Marley made a really good album and you have to give credit where it is due,” he added.
Stanbury urged local music practitioners to become aware of the process behind a Grammy nomination. This includes the release dates to become eligible; the submission to the Reggae Category, and the level of lobbying and campaigning which has to take place.
“Generally speaking, the Marleys, particularly Stephen, Damian and Ziggy, put out high-calibre albums, so if we want to be put in the running for a Grammy, we have to see them as the standard. So if you want to win, make a better album than the Marleys! Get your business more organised than the Marleys — get your management team to do the work, making sure you are in the game. It is good to have the Marleys in the game as they should encourage other reggae artistes to stretch themselves, as their standards are really high,” he noted.
However, artiste manager Bridgett Anderson does not quite agree with Stanbury on the issue of the Marley name recognition.
“I know that once there is a Marley in the category, he is going to win. The way I understand it is that the selection committee is not familiar with what is happening in reggae, so once they see the name Marley, that is familiar and they vote. Personally, I see music as a mission and not a competition. Depending on why you make music then awards might mean a lot to you. An award from the Most High is the ultimate,” she noted.
Social media was also abuzz and artiste manager Duane McDonald who works with Kabaka Pyramid, another member of the young reggae crusaders closely aligned to Chronixx, cautioned against divisive forces.
“Both albums were excellent and both albums were deserving. Only one could win... Congrats to di great Gong Zilla Damian Marley...congrats to the reggae community. Hol eap a great projects made last year....Chronixx, Morgan Heritage, Queen Ifrica, Sizzla, Jesse Royal, Randy Valentine, Exco Levi, Keznamdi, Ken Boothe, Samory I, Kelissa, Mr Williamz, J Boog, Hempress Sativa, Bugle, Earth Kry and so many more ALL released albums last year. Please go out and listen dem, stream dem, buy dem, support dem. Music is alive and kicking,” He posted on Facebook.
Cultural critic Professor Donna Hope also used the moment to to urge for a local reggae music awards scheme.
“If Jamaica wants its favourite to win, then set up its own Jamaican Music Awards and support it wholeheartedly. Until then, if you find the Grammys to be illegitimate or biased, do not submit your work. Until then, the Grammys remain a global ranking of musical excellence. The world watches and takes note. Regardless of how you spin it... This year, the Reggae Grammy is in the hands of a Jamaican,” she posted on social media.