Monday, January 28, 2008

Dancehall Award Category

'Academic' split between REGGAE, DANCEHALL
published: Sunday | May 6, 2007

Melville Cooke and Krista Henry, Gleaner Writers

(Top) Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley performs at 'Welcome to Jamrock' at the Constant Spring football field, Constant Spring, last year. - Winston Sill/FreelancePhotographer and (Bottom)Lloyd Stanbury, chairman of the Reggae Academy, addresses the audience at the launch of the Reggae Academy and Awards at the Caribbean Business Club, New Kingston, on Monday, April 23. - Colin Hamilton/Freelance Photographer

"Reggae has positioned our small island as a powerful force in the global marketplace," noted Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller at the launch of the Reggae Academy Awards, held in late April at the Caribbean Business Club, 3M Building, New Kingston.

However, Jamaica has placed its music and those who make it on a podium for the world to appreciate, with an awards show that would identify the best and bestow a trophy in recogniton.

A reggae awards made for Jamaicans by Jamaicans is long overdue. Reggae has been a driving force behind the island, helping to carve for many the island's unique cultural identity.

When the first Reggae Academy Awards get going in February 2008 it will not only fill the gap, but also make the distinction between reggae and dancehall, with separate awards for each genre.

Unlike most reggae awards overseas, most notably the Grammys, the Reggae Academy Awards will cover Jamaican music in the widest sense, honouring equally both roots reggae and its off-spring, dancehall. While most awards recognise roots reggae acts with a few token dancehall acts in between, the Reggae Academy Awards will each year recognise the gifted, rising and sometimes overlooked dancehall acts.

According to"The Reggae Academy is conceived in recognition of the need to create an award event to recognise and celebrate excellence in the work of creative and technical persons in the local and international reggae music communities, such as producers, songwriters, vocalists, engineers and music video directors."

While Jamaican music has been recognised overseas, locally official praise for the entertainment fraternity has been slim. Across the globe countless reggae and dancehall artistes have been acknowledged by various organisations. There are the Canadian Reggae Music Awards, which has been established for over 20 years, and the Washington DC Annual Reggae Music Awards established in 2007. There is also the International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA), which began in 1982, and in the United States the Grammys started a now somewhat controversial but still coveted reggae award in 1984.

According to Lloyd Stanbury, chairman of the Reggae Academy Awards, "There are enough different participants in dancehall to warrant them having their own whole section. We're catering to

reggae and dancehall. There are enough producers, singers and DJs who are putting energy into dancehall".

He adds that, for example, the committee doesn't believe that a Third World and a Vybz Kartel should be placed in the same category as they are totally different types of music. "Reggae has enough sub genres for us to do this. We are looking at reggae in its broadest sense," Stanbury said.

The reggae categories presently are tentative and include Best Reggae Song - Songwriters Award, Best Male Reggae Vocal Performance, Best Female Reggae Vocal Performance, Best Reggae Vocal Performance By Duo, Group or Collaboration, along with their corresponsind dancehall counterparts. Like the Grammy awards the nominees will be determined by members of the Academy who must be involved in the marketing or production of music. Stanbury stated that the Academy is open to applications by singers, musicians, music producers, studio engineers, video directors, artiste managers, agents, radio, club and sound system DJs, entertainment journalists, record label executives and students from around the world who are involved in the making and promotion of reggae recordings.

Some members of the entertainment community are very supportive of the Reggae Academy Awards' dual format. Jerome Hamilton of Headline Entertainment states "I'm fine with keeping two separate categories. Local awards tend to make the separation. What needs to be done is to define what constitutes dancehall separate from reggae. I hope that the Academy gets a very strong support and representation. I'm imploring members of the industry to be a part of the Academy and for the people to embrace it."

However, it may just be in making this definition where the Reggae Academy Awards may run into difficulties. While the music of Shabba Ranks, who won back to back Grammy Awards in 1992 (As Raw As Ever) and 1993 (X-tra Naked) is very different from that of the 1991 winner Bunny Wailer (Time Will Tell - A Tribute to Bob Marley) and Inner Circle, who won in 1994 with Bad Boys, the definitions have since blurred.

So the question of where to put the 2006 Grammy winner, Damian 'Jr. Gong' Marley's Welcome to Jamrock, in which he not only delivers hardcore deejay lyrics on roots reggae rhythms, as in Khaki Suit, but also croons in There For You, would arise.

Then there are also the singjays,such as Vegas, who easily balance on the thin line between deejaying and singing with songs such as Don't You Know, as well as outright singers such as Wayne Marshall, who drops witty songs such as Uranus on a dancehall rhythm.

That 'academic' sifting and separation will be left to the members of the acdemy who have the power to nominate persons in the first place, then vote on the clutch of actual nominees to determine the final winner.

And it is that final winner who will whip out an acceptance speech and thank all, reggae or dancehall fans - and, most likely, both - in February 2008.