Press conference, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, May 22, 2011
Led by Bobby Sanabria (band leader, master drummer, composer, educator), an unprecedented collection of musicians, academics and artists gathered at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe to deliver a strong statement of protest against the decision of the Academy to eliminate 31 musical categories from consideration for Grammy Awards. The categories include what are mostly "ethnic" genres of music and include Mexican music, zydeco, some blues categories, contemporary jazz, and Latin jazz. Among an illustrious panel that included Latin jazz legend Larry Harlow, Mercedes Ellington (granddaughter of Duke Ellington), David Amram, and many others, author T.J. ENGLISH, representing New York City's literary community, delivered the following statement....
"I am here as author of the book HAVANA NOCTURNE and other works, and also as the co-founder and co-director of a non-profit organization called Irish American Writers & Artists. I am also here as a concerned citizen and lover of all music, and as someone who appreciates, celebrates and cherishes the role that music plays in American culture.
The diversity of American music is our greatest gift to the world. The creation of this music, and the importance of it being heard around the world, is larger than the Grammy Awards. The diversity of American music is a fact that is larger than the Grammy Awards. And this music will survive and flourish with or without the Grammy Awards.
But what the Awards do, quite frankly, is call attention to the practitioners of this music -- the musicians. And what these musicians here today will tell you is that even the most renowned and celebrated musician in the United States is still, and will always be, a working class musician. Because to make a living as a musician, you must perform nearly every day. And especially for musicians who perform music in genres that are considered to be outside the mainstream, life is a constant hustle. And recognition by your peers -- in this case, recognition by NARAS -- is often what makes it possible for musicians to continue this economically perilous pursuit and struggle of attempting to be an artist in the Unites States of America.
So what the Grammys do is call attention to the practitioners of the music and help make it possible for them to survive as working class musicians. That, to me, is why this statement we are making today is so important and essential. Yes, with the Grammy Awards, we celebrate the music. But most of all we celebrate the musicians. And as deserving as Beyonce or Bruce Springsteen or Alicia Keyes may be, the truth is, their adding another Grammy Award to their trophy shelf is not nearly as vital and necessary as the recongnition by NARAS for the practitioners of certain types of Mexican American music, or the blues, or zydeco, or Latin jazz. A Grammy Award, in many cases, makes it possible for these musicians to survive as musicians. And that, in a nutshell, is why we DEMAND the reinstatement of these musical categories.