Tue | Oct 3, 2023

IRAWMA head calls for support of reggae-focused awards

Published:Monday | April 18, 2022 | 12:08 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
Bongo Herman receives one of the Icon awards at the 38th staging of the IRAWMA event. Looking on are organiser Ephraim Martin (left) and host Winford Williams.
Bongo Herman receives one of the Icon awards at the 38th staging of the IRAWMA event. Looking on are organiser Ephraim Martin (left) and host Winford Williams.

President of Martin’s International and founder of the International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA), Ephraim Martin, who has been instrumental in giving reggae recording artistes a platform since 1982 in recognition of their achievements annually, believes that the local music industry has spent too much time complaining about the outcome of the Grammy Awards instead of acting for the betterment of the genre.

“There are many entities and industry awards, launched locally and internationally, that give the genre its deserved recognition that do not get the support they need,” said Martin.

He added, “The Grammys is one award show of many. Persons should stop complaining and cursing the Recording Academy about the Grammys and put that energy into lifting up those entities and industry awards, like IRAWMA, that supports the genre primarily.”

Taking the, ‘if you don’t vote, you don’t have a voice’ stance, Martin said the changes people want to see are not being heard by who needs to hear them. As a former voting member of the Academy, Martin explained that there is not enough interest from the local music industry to apply.

“In the earlier days, I issued a couple of applications and even gave some [to a colleague] to assist with passing them out, and persons would give them a once-over and put them down. Back then, the annual fee was less than US$150, for sure. It’s time for the Jamaican people to support what is available to them. Why complain if you are not willing to participate? And if they want to complain about another awards structure, then become a member to have a voice,” he said.

He notes that in the Latin music community, when the focus shifted to their talents 20 years ago, that is when they got their own Grammy Awards – the Latin Grammy Awards.

“It’s not always black or white; certainly, many members are white or American, but nothing is stopping our industry from applying to become a member. Last I checked, we still didn’t have too many voting members – those that are members are major acts. At the moment, I’m only an associate member, but hope to renew my membership to vote.”

He said it requires a lot of investment, but persons can apply to serve in different capacities, including participating in meetings and providing suggestions for potential nominees. He has attempted to institute a similar structure for the IRAWMA, but even with a significantly small membership fee “most persons would say it is just too much”.

“The IRAWMAs that is usually held in May, currently takes suggestions for possible awardees from members of the music industry in Jamaica, the diaspora and on a global scale, but it is the public that makes the final vote. Each person is only allowed to vote once and at the end of the voting process, the top five get on the ballot.”

While Martin’s International has announced the postponement of its 40th anniversary staging for this year until 2023, the organisation is already making headway with plans to make adjustments to, and re-establish some of, the categories that were removed during the pandemic. They also hosted anniversary celebrations at the Chicago Music Awards on April 2, a day before the Grammy Awards.

Last year, the awards show diversified its nomination list and received well over 300,000 votes, with a third of those coming from Africa. Veteran reggae-dancehall entertainer Buju Banton had the most nominations – winning four of the 11 categories, including Emperor of Reggae and World Music; Honourable Bob Marley Award for Entertainer of the Year; Toot Hibbert Award for Best Album, for Upside Down; and the Marcus Garvey Humanitarian Award.

Th 2023 nominations will be based on performances for 2021 and 2022.

“Over the years, our minister of culture, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, has assisted and supported the awards, but we would like the rest of the Government and the Jamaica Tourist Board to get involved because it’s not only culture and entertainment; there are benefits for the hospitality industry. We want them to show interest in coming on board before it gets broadcast internationally or on the national networks in America,” Martin said.