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Reggae Grammy Award still relevant - Artistes need to be more informed, says Neil Robertson

Published:Sunday | June 7, 2015 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Neil Robertson
Sly (right) and Robbie.
Ziggy Marley

Established in 1984, the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album is an award presented to recording artistes for quality work in the reggae music genre.

February's staging of the annual Grammy Awards marked 31 years since the Academy included a Best Reggae album category, a move that may have been made with the best of intentions in mind. Fast-forward three decades later and the evolution of the Grammy Awards or the lack thereof, have many questioning the relevance of the Best Reggae Album category.

In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, music industry veteran Neil Robertson explained that the persons questioning the relevance of the Reggae Grammy Award do not understand the Grammy process and how it works.

"Despite efforts by many to educate the Jamaican industry on the Grammy process, many still don't understand how the Grammies work," he said. "The reggae category is an album or EP award. Artistes need someone on their team to formally submit the album or EP to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) prior to the annual deadline in September."

He went on to say that rather than being upset year after year, when the nominee list is revealed, the industry should push for more persons to become members of NARAS so they can vote.

"Any dues-paying member of NARAS can vote in various categories," he explained. "Rather than being upset every year and saying that the Grammy Award doesn't reflect what is going on in reggae, the solution is to get more professionals in the reggae industry to become members of NARAS."

There are many persons who believe that the Reggae Grammy holds no value because the same names keep appearing on the nominee list annually. Robertson explained that the reason the Marley's and the Sly & Robbies tend to win is because people are more familiar with them.

"Within the greater singer/songwriter community, these are the names that most voters know and respect, so artistes, once they are nominated, need to hire a Grammy specialist and public relations personnel to develop a winning strategy."

Speaking on the inclusion of non-Jamaicans on the nominee list, Robertson said it is proof that reggae is evolving and shouldn't be taken to mean that the music is losing its authenticity.

"Reggae has evolved, the non-Jamaican bands are making relevant music for this evolving market." The experienced industry insider also said there are many benefits that come along with winning a Grammy, but the key is to take advantage of the opportunities when they arise.

"A Grammy is the most prestigious award we have in the music industry, 'Grammy-winning artiste' presides your name once you win and that speaks volumes, especially on an international level," he said. "I feel artistes benefit from even being nominated. The nominee list is released in December with the award ceremony held in February, so within that time, it is up to artistes' teams to take advantage of the interest that comes with becoming a Grammy nominee."s