Dancehall Grammy category would set us back – Cooper - Expert says reggae and dancehall should not be separated at the Grammys
A Grammy Award is highly revered as the ultimate milestone for many musicians, even 61 years after the event was birthed. The category Best Reggae Album was formalised by the Recording Academy in 1992, but some Jamaicans still believe a dancehall category should added to the list of awards.
Interim chairman of the Jamaica Reggae Music Industry Association (JaRIA), Michael ‘Ibo’ Cooper, said lobbying for the new category would be detrimental to the progression of Jamaican music.
“We don’t need a dancehall category at the Grammys; that would set us back,” Cooper said. “Dancehall people are being fooled about separating dancehall from reggae. Dem seh, ‘Oh, that (reggae) a old people style’. They are not standing on what was there before. If you look at reggae as an umbrella category and dancehall as an offspring, it’s an easier move than trying to build from scratch.”
Cooper was addressing JaRIA’s Reggae Open University, held at Grafton Studios in Vineyard Town recently.
He added that the inclusion of a dancehall category would stir controversy regarding the true meaning of ‘dancehall’.
“We’re always trying to create something instead of focusing on what we have and building that. You know how long rocksteady lasted for?” he asked. “Three years, because in those days, we were always trying to create another thing. With dancehall, people feel like it should sound a particular way, so it wouldn’t be long before people say, ‘Well, this is not dancehall because it don’t sound like this or that’.”
Some dancehall entertainers have copped the prestigious award for hybrid works, Shabba Ranks being the first in 1992 for his album As Raw As Ever.
He repeated the feat the following year with the set X-Tra Naked , and Shaggy was next in 1996 with Boombastic.
Beenie Man’s Art & Life copped the trophy in 2001, and Sean Paul was the last to receive the Grammy for a heavily dancehall-laced album in 2004, with Dutty Rock.
Dancehall artiste Spice told THE STAR newspaper in January that she would like to be the catalyst for a dancehall Grammy category before she retires.
“I definitely wanted to walk away with a Grammy. I wanted to put dancehall in a category because it’s not there. I wanted to be that person to put dancehall in the category. I don’t think it’s impossible; I just think time is running out,” she said.
Cooper said that Spice has the package to be a Grammy winner in the reggae category.
“If Spice works her game right internationally, tours, promotes properly, and has a good relationship with media and publicity, she will win a reggae Grammy,” he said. “If she wins a reggae Grammy, it does not mean she’s a part of the reggae revival. The youths have come and make it seem like reggae is about Rasta singing about the pope and dancehall is another thing; that’s not the case.”