Lloyd Stanbury, chairman of the Reggae Academy, addresses the audience at the launch of the Reggae Academy and Awards at the Caribbean Business Club, New Kingston, on Monday, April 23, 2007. – Colin Hamilton
Representatives from the board of directors, responsible for overseeing the organisation and execution of the Reggae Academy Awards (RAA), have come out in denial over claims that the organisation is biased against dancehall music.
In an article published in THE STAR, dated Friday, February 29, a number of industry players raised concerns over what they said was the obvious bias against dancehall music, shown by the artistes who were nominated and in how the performances were staged.
However, in a late email response, Lloyd Stanbury, who is the duly authorised representative of the Recording Industry Association of Jamaica/RIAJam board (responsible for the RAA) and chairman of the Reggae Academy, sought to provide clarity for the benefit of the public and the music industry.
According to Stanbury, “no one who attended the awards ceremony and watched the performances could reasonably defend such a position” that there was any bias at all.
In seeking to further defend his claim, Stanbury said the project sought to highlight creative excellence in all aspects of popular Jamaican music.
“There were performances and award presentations by popular gospel artistes, reggae artistes and dancehall artistes. There are 12 dancehall categories, 12 reggae categories and six gospel categories in the awards. The live show featured performances by Macka Diamond, Assassin, Elephant Man, Geefus, Wayne Marshall, Harry Toddler, Demarco and the entire set for the show depicted a downtown dancehall scene,” he said.
Crime and violence
He also added, “The awards ceremony is a made for TV product designed for both the local and international audience and was never intended to focus on one aspect of popular Jamaican music.”
In fact, Stanbury also had some strong words for detractors. “I think those persons who have come out in defence of dancehall need to come straight and state that they are in fact in defence of music that promotes crime and violence and the degrading of women, which the Academy will not support.”
“Dancehall music is not about the promotion of crime and violence and the debasing of our mothers and sisters, neither is it confined to poor people as suggested – the Reggae Academy Awards will continue to project and promote Dancehall in a positive light,” he said.
There were concerns that artistes like Mavado were in fact quite popular, but failed be nominated in any of the categories.
However, Stanbury again reminded that “the guidelines issued to all members of the Reggae Academy that submitted projects and artistes for consideration for awards clearly stated that the Academy reserves the right to disqualify musical works that promote violence and crime”.
He continued, “Based on these guidelines certain artistes and musical works did not make the list of nominees, as they were not submitted by Academy members for consideration. The Academy is not set up to discriminate against any particular artiste or genre of music, but it will continue to take a stand against negative lyrical content.”
Stanbury also pointed out that Josef Bogdanovich “has absolutely nothing to do with categories, nominations and voting procedures. He is the executive producer of the awards show which is made for TV”.
Bagdanovich, in a statement sent to THE STAR, urged that individuals not judge the inaugural staging of the RAA too harshly, as he points out, “The Oscars and the Grammys have a combined existence spanning some 130 years, yet they still have glitches despite their large budgets. We should not be too hard on ourselves. We have learned valuable lessons from the inaugural staging of this event, which will only lead to the improvements in subsequent years.”
However, Bagdanovich also had his part to say on the matter of who should be nominated. “I know that there has been a bit of controversy about the exclusion of certain artistes from the list of nominees. I know the Academy has its own rules which it can best express regarding the rules (perhaps a People’s Choice component should not be part of a peer awards).”
“This I think is something, which I think the Academy might want to look into next year. However, let me stress that I do not speak for the Academy and have made this intervention in my capacity as producer of the event,” he said.