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Musicians protest Grammy Awards category cuts

May 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Musicians protest cuts in the Grammy Awards.

They staged a demonstration Thursday, calling on the recording academy to restore more than 30 musical categories trimmed from the Grammy list.

An invasion of Latin Jazz performers on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard lead to impromptu jam sessions with the best of the best in the business. But this wasn't a celebration. It was a demonstration against the organization behind the Grammy Awards.

"Many races, colors and creeds embrace our music," said Latin jazz musician Peter Escovedo. "And to take that away from us is a slap in the face."

As the group protested outside the Beverly Hilton, the board of trustees for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) met inside.

Last month, NARAS announced it is eliminating 31 categories from the Grammy Awards. Among them, contemporary blues, Native American, Hawaiian, and Latin jazz. The protesters want the decision reversed.

"Reinstate the categories," said contemporary blues artist Pepper Mashay. "Reinstate all of them Let the chips fall where they may, on the talent."

"We feel this is a disservice to real American musicians who make their music with real instruments instead of synthesized sounds and sound machines," said Bobby Matos from the Bobby Matos Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble.

The academy's decision is drawing criticism from many other musicians including Paul Simon and Carlos Santana.

The recording academy declined to comment on the protest or the reasoning behind the decision, but NARAS President and CEO Neil Portnow released a statement:

"After careful and extensive review and analysis of all categories and fields, it was objectively determined that our Grammy categories be restructured to the continued competition and prestige of the highest and only peer-recognized award in music."

"You say to the Grammys what is next?" said Grammy winner Oscar Hernandez. "Eliminate jazz because it isn't popular? Frank Sinatra said in the first Grammys it is about excellence, not about popularity."

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