The first Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album went to Black Uhuru for their album, Anthem, in 1985. Back then, the category was called Grammy Award for Best Reggae Recording and it was presented to artistes for eligible songs or albums. In 1992, the name of the award was changed to Best Reggae Album and has seen artistes like Bunny Wailer, Lee Scratch Perry, Beenie Man, Buju Banton and Shabba Ranks as well as several Marley children, walking away with nods.
Despite the Awards having a rich legacy of Jamaican winners, none of those winners have been females.
In over three decades of history in the Reggae Grammy category, only three females have ever been nominated, none of them actually walking away with the award. The last female to walk away with a nomination was Sister Carol. She was nominated in 1997 for her album, Lyrically Potent. That was more than two decades ago.
Based on the bit of history outlined above, The Sunday Gleaner, sought to find out from some females in the industry, what they thought, accounted for the low level of female representation in the Best Reggae Album category at the Grammys.
Shelly-Ann Curran, manager for Grammy-nominated artiste Devin Di Dakta, pointed out that women have always experienced some level of inequality in the music industry and the Grammy Awards is no different.
“I can’t answer why we have never had a Grammy winner (female) but overall our investment and development in women is short changed. There are no equal opportunities given to women (in music) vs men,” she said, explaining that the industry has failed to invest in its women as much as it has in men.
“It just boils down to investment. The industry is not doing enough to invest in the talent of women.”
While pointing out that it is hard to find a team willing to put in the work, Curran encouraged female artistes who desire to make the Grammy cut, to invest in themselves as well. She highlighted that it may take some time, but says the right team for every artiste is out there and finding that takes a bit of effort from the artiste as well.
“They (artistes) need to align themselves with serious producers and distributors and they need to put in the work too,” she said, explaining that it’s not just any album that gets nominated.
“You can have a great album and a great team but your album must also have that international sound. The appeal must be there for the persons voting that are not Jamaicans.”
Veteran producer Gussie Clarke, shared similar sentiments. Expressing that while the industry is largely a male dominated one, women could make more of an impact if they understood the Grammy process a little more. Like Curran, Clarke pointed out that getting a Grammy nod comes down to more than just putting out a good album.
“Maybe female artistes have not made the music that is Grammy worthy, gender means nothing, it’s about the music. It is a male dominated industry, but so are so many other industries in the world and in any industry, where you have men dominating, you will find more of them (women) surfacing to the limelight and being more successful,” he said. “It just means that the gender that has a lesser visibility in numbers, have to work harder in some cases, if they think there is a bias. If they work hard enough and put out a quality project that fulfils all the Grammy requirements and has an international appeal, there can be no question about whether they deserve it or not.”
He went on to say that any artiste who aspires to have a Grammy nomination, should educate themselves on the process. He explained that there are specifics (like when an album should be submitted for consideration) that many entertainers do not have knowledge about, that ultimately eliminates them in the end.
“We need to understand the process of how a Grammy nomination works, that will make a world of difference,” he said. “Get people around you that understand the process and then make the music do the rest, because quality of content is king.”