The Reggae-Lution Must Be Televised


Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Michael Rose, Puma Jones, and Duckie Simpson took several historical leaps when they stood up before The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences and walked across the stage to receive a small token of the American public’s admiration for their musical mastery—a golden gramophone. In 1984, four years before the Academy recognized even American Hip Hop music, the five Jamaican musicians collectively known as Black Uhuru, received the first ever Grammy Award in the newly created Best Reggae Recording category, one of only two non-American music genres to be acknowledged at the Grammy’s. Unfortunately, Reggae fans were not able to see their historic steps; it wasn’t part of the telecast. Today, Reggae has carved a significant niche in American music and pop culture. You can hear Reggae rhythms in Rock & Roll, Punk Rock, Folk, Pop, R&B, and especially mainstream-dominating Hip Hop music. Even Country legend Willie Nelson, rode the drum & bass sound in Countryman, his full length Reggae album. Time Magazine named Bob Marley & the Wailers’ Exodus the “Album of the 20th Century.” Jimmy Cliff was requested by the Kennedy family to sing at the funeral of JFK Jr. Earlier this year, Sean Paul and Damian Marley made SoundScan history when their albums debuted in the Top Ten of the Billboard 200. After twenty-one years of significant strides in the American and global market, Reggae aficionados are demanding that the Best Reggae Album award presentation and acceptance speech be televised.

In a little over a month, 2,776 musicians, entertainers, journalist, disc jockeys, record labels, and even a voting member of The Recording Academy have signed a petition, appealing to The Recording Academy to include Reggae in the Grammy telecast. Started by Solar Entertainment Reggae publicist Shiloh Evans, the petition urges Reggae fans to, in the immortal words of Bob Marley “get up, stand up” for the music.

“This is not just about getting the Reggae portioned aired,” says Shiloh. “It is about getting recognition and due respect. We earned it.”

According to Robert Steffans, Chairman of the Grammy Award’s Reggae committee, submissions for Best Reggae Album have already surpassed 40 albums, ranging from I-Wayne’s rootsy Lava Ground to Sean Paul’s uptempo Dancehall album The Trinity to Throw Down Your Arms from Irish-singer Sinead O’Connor. In an interview with Jamaican entertainment newspaper The Star, Steffans expressed the sentiment to create another Reggae category for Best Dancehall album.

“This year’s entries are quite impressive in quality and quantity, and are especially diverse with entries of Roots Rock, Dancehall, Pop, and more Dancehall,” Steffans stated. “It is difficult, though, to compare a Beres Hammond with a Lady Saw.”

The 2,700+ reggae fans that have signed the petition are just as diverse as the music. Reggae/Dancehall fans from Kenya, Tanzania, Holland, Germany, France, Montreal, and U.S. residents from coast to coast are joining Evans in her campaign to televise Reggae. Among the comments on the petition, a radio disc jockey from Santa Barbara expresses “Reggae has been well established as a wellspring of great artistic and cultural expression, with a profound impact on society as a vehicle for social change, and bringing people together, trying to eliminate the false pretense of race division. In the name of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Toots & The Maytals and so many others, I think this is an important step for the Academy to take. Give reggae its fair due!” Another signature adds that even she, a 70-year-old grandmother, likes to dance to reggae.

“Our music is international,” Shiloh states emphatically. “We need to be acknowledged. I want to sit back on my couch, and hear ‘and the Reggae nominees are…and the winner is…’ and see the artist and hear their acceptance speech. It gives the artist a chance to say something positive. With all the problems going on in Jamaica, it would be nice for all of us and the rest of the world to see the positive we have done. We deserve it.”

Shiloh is confident that eventually, the Reggae award presentation will be aired. “I don’t think the Grammy people overlooked us on purpose,” she commented. “Nobody has really made an issue of it before. Once they realize that we care they will probably televise it. We won’t know unless we try.

Shiloh plans to present the petition in the Academy sometime in January, in hopes that this upcoming year’s Best Reggae Album winner can take another historic leap, and walk across the stage to accept that little gramophone in front of the Academy, the live audience, and the millions of viewers worldwide, who like Shiloh, will be sitting on their living room couches in anticipation of seeing their favorite artists accept the Grammy.

The petition is posted on Shiloh’s Reggae/Dancehall Internet magazine cite: