Teino Evans, Staff Reporter
Lloyd Stanbury (left) and Joe Bogdanovich, producers of the Reggae Academy Awards. - colin hamilton
Following the recent staging of the inaugural Reggae Academy Awards (RAA), a number of industry players have raised concerns over what they say was the obvious bias against dancehall music.
Among the grouses is the allegation that there was an obvious bias against dancehall music, shown by which artistes were nominated and in how the performances were staged.
Well-known publicist in the business, Ray Alexander, lashed out against the organisers of the RAA saying, "I have no apology, me a bun dem out, because dancehall music a poor people music, so if they want to isolate dancehall, tell us so that we can distance ourselves."
Alexander says, "I think it was a total disrespect to dancehall because what I saw, it showed a bias in all forms, the nominees, the categories and the performances itself where they had reggae artistes perform with bands and the dancehall artistes perform on tracks, which made them (dancehall performances) look weak."
According to Alexander, he feels that "the majority of people on the board are for reggae music, they are not dancehall lovers."
"Dancehall music is our music, so why should we discriminate against it? I have no problem with reggae music, it's the best music in the world, but when they go out and discriminate, because the alleged rumour is that they want Mavado to clean up his lyrics first (and that's why he wasn't nominated)," he said.
He continued, "and if that's truth, they have no right to do that, he (Mavado) is expressing himself through music, he is singing what he lives and who knows, maybe as he grows older his lyrics will change."
Least of Mavado's worries
Tony Rebel, a member of the academy, says there is no discrimination against dancehall and that the awards is just in its first year so things may not be perfect. - file photos
Julian Jones-Griffith, Mavado's manager, said being nominated or winning an award was the least of Mavado's worries "because he has the love of the people and that's the biggest award to him".
However, Jones-Griffith did point out that the bias was too obvious.
"I was speaking to an overseas journalist and she put it the best way, she said 'clearly the Reggae Academy is using their award ceremony to pass judgement on the music and that shouldn't be the case'.
If you are going to have Most Popular Artiste and you have like six names and Mavado's name wasn't one of them, I mean, no disrespect to the other artistes, but Mavado's name couldn't make the top six?"
Tony Rebel, who is a part of the Steering Committee for the RAA, says he personally "will definitely put certain things forward", but said he was willing to give and take because it was the first staging of the event.
However, on the issue of artistes being barred, Rebel was in total disagreement to it.
"I don't think that any artiste should be barred, but as far as dancehall is concerned where the nominations are, there are other categories that should be included like male/female deejay of the year, but it's the first year so I'm willing to forgive," Rebel said.
Rebel, however, made it clear, that while he was not in support of barring any artiste, "if a song does not fit the criteria of the Reggae Academy", then he would be in agreement for it not to be nominated.
"The Reggae Academy has certain criteria, so they might not accept a song that would be, for example, telling somebody to kill someone or songs that are discriminating to women. But what I would love, though, is that the winners of any category at the awards must reflect the wishes of the people, but it's the first one so whatever problems, I hope that they can clean it up and come better next year," Rebel said.
However, when contacted, Rose Desouza, administrative assistant at the Recording Industry Association of Jamaica, said there was no way that there were any biases and explained again how the process worked.
"Reggae Academy members make the initial nominations. So members from all over the world are invited to send in their nominations and it can be of any artiste, so long as it's within the reggae genre and we have different types of categories, in reggae, dancehall and gospel. So I don't see how they can say it was heavily on reggae," Desouza said.
She continued, "after we've got all the nominations, it's added up and the Steering Committee will take the top four and send it out again to the Reggae Academy members who will select one from each category and the tally will determine the final winner. Everything is done online."