Reggae Grammy returns to basics

Jay-Z performs at Pier 54 in New York.
AP Photo
AP Photo

Last week, the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards went into effect with a television showcase on primetime television announcement of the finalists selected in various genres of the 108 categories of music.

Among them, individuals and duos representing reggae won final consideration for a Grammy slated to be presented on Feb. 13, 2011 at the Staples Center in California. Each representing the evolution of the Jamaica-honed beat, vintage, dub, dancehall, traditional and acoustic versions of the genre performed by Buju Banton, Andrew Tosh, Bob Sinclair, Sly & Robbie, Gregory Isaacs, King Isaac and Lee “Scratch” Perry are the contenders.

Announced among a list of genres refelecting the global music sphere, the sole reggae category lists: Best Reggae Album — Vocal or Instrumental; Before The Dawn — Buju Banton, (Gargamel Music Inc.) Isaacs Meets Isaac — Gregory Isaacs & King Isaac, (King Isaac Music) Revelation — Lee “Scratch” Perry, (Megawave Records) Made In Jamaica — Bob Sinclair & Sly & Robbie, (Yellow Productions/Universal Music France) One Pop Reggae — Sly & Robbie & The Family Taxi, (Phase One Communications/Taxi Records) Legacy An Acoustic Tribute To Peter Tosh — Andrew Tosh, (Box10/Tuff Gong). This year’s nomimnees represent the broadest spectrum ever considered to win the music industry’s most coveted honor.

Grassroots fans may have voted Taurus Riley, Romaine Virgo, Gyptian, Lady Saw, Gramps Morgan or a collaborative effort featuring Bob Marley’s youngest son Damian with hip-hop popular Nas or some of the more hyped names from the Jamaican reggae circuit. Surprisingly for the first time in many years, not a single Marley name made the cut.

Although Stephen Marley leads the family in collecting miniature, music grammophones, expectations were high that any obscure Marley recording made have won notice from the committee selected by the National Academy of Recording of Arts & Sciences to decide reggae’s best.

That the youngest of the Marley clan did not make it into the crossover rap category may be a signal that voters are now taking a more decisive approach to the 25-year-old oft-stagnant category.

Five credible choices emerged this year. Four seems imminent winners with the Gargamel, the one controversial unlikely victor due to his status with law enforcers as a possible potential conspirator to drug trafficking. Nominated for the fifth time, Banton’s CD was allegedly compiled during his incarceration in a Florida prison. Songs making reference to his case declare “Innocent” and others the anthemic appeal for contention.

Cheers are going up for a win for Tosh, the offspring of Bob Marley’s collaborator and Wailer, Peter. Previously nominated once, his fans hope 2011 will be the year a second generation benefactor from a pioneering reggae talent claim the coveted music honor. A posthumous win for reggae crooner Isaacs would also be regarded worthy. The album which combines the Jamaican talent with South Aftican King Isaacs may emerge the sentimental favorite. That Perry, and the rhythm twins — Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare — already won favor with NARAS may also yield to first-time wins for the above-mentioned contenders.

Topping the list for the most Grammy nominations, Eminem takes the prize with 10; Bruno Mars garners seven; and Jay-Z, Lady Antebellum, and Lady Gaga each earn six nods. Jeff Beck, B.o.B, David Frost, Philip Lawrence, and John Legend receive five each; and Alex Da Kid, the Black Keys, Drake, Cee Lo Green, Ari Levine, Katy Perry, Rihanna, the Roots, Dirk Sobotka, and Zac Brown each have four nominations.

“This year’s nominations are a true reflection of an exceptional and talented community of music makers that embody some of the highest levels of excellence and artistry in their respective fields,” Neil Portnow, president/CEO of The Recording Academy said. “It is most gratifying to see the Grammy Awards process once again produce a broad cross-section of diverse and impressive nominees across multiple genres. Coupled with the third year of our primetime nominations special, the road to Music’s Biggest Night, the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards in February, is off to an exciting start.”

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