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Industry insiders shed more light on Grammy nomination, selection process - Suggests how more Jamaicans can get involved

Published:Sunday | December 25, 2016 | 12:12 AMKimberley Small
Cristy Barber
Headline Entertainment's Jerome Hamilton

It is supposed that it has never happened, that a Jamaican hold the position of chairman for the Reggae Grammy Committee. In light of the recent complaining of reggae star Freddie McGregor, industry professionals Jerome Hamilton (head of Headline Entertainment) and Cristy Barber (an American music producer, Grammy nominee and former chairman of the Committee), have sought to offer a few clarifications on the Grammy nomination and selection process and how more Jamaicans can get involved.

Barber told The Sunday Gleaner, that the Academy frowns upon Committee members revealing their participation, but finds it necessary to address what she considers the misunderstanding and vilification of an organisation the reggae community under-utilises.

"Cristy Barber, once of VP Records, played a major role in the establishment of the reggae industry in Jamaica," Hamilton told The Sunday Gleaner. Barber was appointed chairman of the Reggae Grammy Committee in 2004. Hamilton said that Barber appointed the first Jamaican members to that Committee, including himself, Pat Meschino, Randy Chin, founder of Chimney Records and Ras Kassa (who was unable to accept the invitation at the time). Hamilton served as a member of the Reggae Grammy Committee from 2005 to 2007, and decided to relay his experiences of the nomination process.

Each genre of music acknowledged by NARAS ( National Academy Of Recording Arts And Science) has a committee assembled, specifically for quality control. Each submission to the committees are vetted to ensure they demonstrate characteristics specific and signature to that particular genre. In the case of the Reggae Grammy Committee, Hamilton tells The Sunday Gleaner, that some of the committee's guidelines stipulated that the music submitted must measure at least 50% in reggae elements, and that content must be original.

After all the material is vetted, the submissions lists are sent to voting members in an initial vote which determines the top five or six. The results of the initial vote are then sent to the voting members, after-which the final tally determines the winners. Hamilton clarified that members of this screening committee are often not voting members themselves.

"Albums must be submitted. If it's not submitted, it doesn't stand a chance," he said.

Hamilton calls on entities like JARIA, the Entertainment Advisory Board and the Ministry of Entertainment, Gender, Sport and Culture, to lead the charge, or multiple charges, to rally Jamaican musicians and music professionals to register to become voting members of The Recording Academy.

"Submissions are not as high as we think, Barber told The Sunday Gleaner. In 2004, when she was appointed chairman of the Reggae Grammy Committee, Barber undertook a recruitment drive.

"Take the first Welcome to Jamrock cruise. Grammy people came and were trying to get people to register," she said.

"On that entire cruise, there were only three voting members. Gramps Morgan and Shaggy were registered," she continued, with her presence completing the trio.

"Very few people took up the offer. It's our typical fashion, because the industry is so disjointed and divided. There is no one trying to keep this together," she said.

Barber told The Sunday Gleaner, that she believes her campaigning may be working, though a number of years later.

"I'm glad to see Raging Fyah- it's good to see a young Jamaican band being nominated. It shows people are understanding the process."

According to Barber, Luke Morgan, manager of Morgan's Heritage, also works with Raging Fyah and JBoog's teams. She notes the association and subsequent Grammy nominations as progress, when considering the surprise of the family band's award at last year's ceremony.

"What is concerning is that the three biggest reggae bands in the U.S., are nominated and they are getting people on their side to register," she said.

"I share Freddie McGregor's views that we have no one registering and I just hope that someone from Jamaica will make it back to the screening committee. This is a great opportunity to try and understand the process, but try to also make an effort and register for the Academy," she said.