Ghanaian-American singer Amaarae criticizes Grammy organizers for new African music category

Ben Ebuka July 06, 2023
Ghanaian-American musician Ama Serwah Genfi, known professionally as Amaarae, in a recent interview with Ghana's Metro TV, chided Grammy organizers for what she termed “reductive.” Photo credit: Amaarae on Facebook

Recording Academy, the organizers of the Grammy Awards, recently announced the introduction of three new African categories in the Award’s catalog and the movement of two existing Categories – Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical and Songwriter Of The Year, and Non-Classical to the General Field.

According to the organizers, three new Categories: Best African Music Performance, Best Alternative Jazz Album, and Best Pop Dance, which will be introduced at the 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, reflects its commitment to among other things, actively listen and respond to the feedback from the music community and accurately incorporate a diverse range of relevant musical genres.

 “The Recording Academy is proud to announce these latest Category changes to our Awards process. These changes reflect our commitment to actively listen and respond to the feedback from our music community, accurately represent a diverse range of relevant musical genres, and stay aligned with the ever-evolving musical landscape,” Recording Academy CEO, Harvey Mason Jr., said.

“By introducing these three new categories, we are able to acknowledge and appreciate a broader array of artists – and relocating the Producer Of the Year and Songwriter Of The Year categories to the General Field ensures that all our voters can participate in recognizing excellence in these fields,” Mason continued. “We are excited to honor and celebrate the creators and recordings in these categories, while also exposing a wider range of music to fans worldwide.”

However, the recent announcement has stirred mixed reactions from many industry stakeholders.

Ghanaian-American musician Ama Serwah Genfi, known professionally as Amaarae, in a recent interview with Ghana’s Metro TV, criticized the Grammy organizers for what she termed “reductive.”

The talented songstress, known for her fusion of Pop, R&B, Afrobeat, Alté, and dynamic representation of gender and sexuality, said, “The idea of an African category [at the Grammys] is great in practice, but I think it is reductive. There are way too many categories to be placed under the umbrella of African music.

“Take a song like ‘Sad Girlz’, ‘Calm Down,’ or ‘Last Last’ are songs that didn’t just do well in Africa, but did well globally and had humongous global impacts. So, to me, they are popular records.

“So, I feel a record like [Rema’s] ‘Calm Down’ with the remix with Selena Gomez, should be able to compete in pop categories [at the Grammys]. I feel like [Burna Boy’s] ‘Last Last’ should be able to compete in hip-hop, RnB, or pop categories and not be relegated to just the African category because that’s reductive of the works that [African] artists have done to break boundaries.”

Below is the breakdown of the three new GRAMMY Award Categories.

Best African Music Performance

A track and singles Category that recognizes recordings that utilize unique local expressions from across the African continent.

Highlighting regional melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic musical traditions, the Category includes but is not limited to the Afrobeat, Afro-fusion, Afro Pop, Afrobeats, Alte, Amapiano, Bongo Flava, Genge, Kizomba, Chimurenga, High Life, Fuji, Kwassa, Ndombolo, Mapouka, Ghanaian Drill, Afro-House, South African Hip-Hop, and Ethio Jazz genres.

Best Pop Dance Recording

Recognizes tracks and singles that feature up-tempo, danceable music that follows a pop arrangement. Eligible Pop Dance recordings also feature strong rhythmic beats and significant electronic-based instruments with an emphasis on vocal performance, melody, and hooks.

Dance remixes are eligible in the Best Remixed Recording Category only and may not be entered in Best Pop Dance Recording.

Best Alternative Jazz Album

This Category recognizes artistic excellence in Alternative Jazz albums by individuals, duos, and groups/ensembles, with or without vocals.

Alternative Jazz may be defined as a genre-blending, envelope-pushing hybrid that mixes jazz (improvisation, interaction, harmony, rhythm, arrangements, composition, and style) with other genres, including R&B, Hip-Hop, Classical, Contemporary Improvisation, Experimental, Pop, Rap, Electronic/Dance music, and/or Spoken Word.

It may also include the contemporary production techniques/instrumentation associated with other genres.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: July 6, 2023


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