Both countries have an equal number of nominees — three — and from all indications it is anybody’s race.
The American nominees for Best Reggae Album are Falling Into Place by Rebelution,
Rose Petals from J Boog and Live in Virginia from Soja.
The Jamaican contenders are Ziggy Marley by Ziggy Marley, Everlasting from Raging Fyah, and Reggae For Her — Sly and Robbie Presents Devin Di Dakta and JL.At least one music executive is willing to put her neck on the block and call what is setting out to be a tight race.
Cristy Barber is giving the nod to Ziggy Marley who has six Grammys — three from his work as part of The Melody Makers and three from solo projects.
Barber described 2016 as a great year for the 48-year-old son of reggae king Bob Marley.
“I am really super-excited for everybody in this category. I am super-proud of J Boog and, of course, Raging Fyah, but I pretty much feel Ziggy has this one down. He has what is the best album of his career, which is critically-acclaimed and received a good amount of positive press. He has been able to tour extensively to promote the album and the feedback has been great,” she said.
Barber — who has worked with the Marley family for nearly 20 years — is not buying the perennial comment that a Marley has to win once they are nominated.
“If that was the case, then Ky-Mani and Julian would have Grammys, Jo Mersa (Stephen Marley’s son) would have a nomination. The truth is, Ziggy is well known and the fact that he puts in the work does not hurt. He understands the Grammy cycle; he makes himself available to work for the Grammy Foundation and performs at the Grammy Museum,” said Barber.
She stressed the onus is really on the artiste to get their work heard.
“I try to tell artistes to get more involved. Get in front of the Grammy voters, get in their face so they can be familiar with your work. That paid off for Morgan Heritage last year and this year it has earned Raging Fyah a nomination. Can you imagine if Raging Fyah won? It would be such a great Cinderella story and everyone loves a Cinderella story…’young band from Jamaica cops Grammy on their first nomination’. But you just have to get out and pay your dues.”
American bands have consistently outsold and out-toured their Jamaican counterparts in the last three years. Rebelution from California have been the most successful.
Still, Barber is confident Jamaicans will maintain their hold on the Grammy.
“This is my 25th year in the music industry. I was born in Michigan, but anyone who knows me knows how connected I am to Jamaica and reggae. So it was bound to happen as the American reggae scene has been hot for some time. It was inevitable those who started out as fans would start to copy… it is just inevitable,” she said. “At least this year it is stacked up evenly. I will say I would be disheartened if Jamaica had less nominees and devastated if we had none at all. But I know Jamaicans will not allow this to happen to their music.”