For an event hailed as “Music’s Biggest Night,” the televised portion of The Grammys focuses on an extremely narrow and particularly profitable segment of the music industry. Do we complain about this every year? Yes. Does that mean we’re wrong to? Or that they shouldn’t listen to our pleas? No! As we here at Afropop Worldwide are fond of reminding you day in and day out, it’s a big wide world out there, and all over the globe people are making music that is moving and valuable in ways other album sales and Nielsen ratings. Let’s take a look at some of the great artists from around the world that LL Cool J neglected to tell you about Sunday night.
In a moving tribute to the recently departed Ravi Shankar, The Grammys honored his last album, The Living Room Sessions Part 1, with the Best World Music award. Listen to a beautiful cut from the dearly missed master’s final release below.
Lila Downs took home the Best Regional Mexican Music Album award for her 2011 release, Pecados Y Milagros. Check out the video for her wonderfully rhythmic song “Zapata Se Queda” below.
In the Best Tropical Latin Album category, genre-bending Puerto Rican composer, producer, and pianist Marlow Rosado brought home the golden gramophone for his latest album, Retro.
Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff won the Best Reggae Album for Rebirth, his first full-length album since 2004. Check out the Afropop album review of Rebirth, our interview with Jimmy, and this great micro-doc about the making of the album below.
New Orleans legend Dr. John’s 2012 album Locked Down took the Grammy for Best Blues Album. Dr. John produced the record with The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, whom we talked a bit about in a recent article on desert-bluesman Bombino’s forthcoming record, Normad. Check out the article here.
But perhaps most importantly, let’s talk about a couple of fantastic albums that have been on our radar for a while, but that didn’t take home the prize last night.
The expansive collection Opika Pende: Africa at 78 RPM failed to garner the attention of the Grammys, but we at Afropop couldn’t get enough of it. Spanning from 1909 to 1960, this compilation documents the mind-blowing variety and complexity of African music in the age of the 78 rpm disc, from popular music to work songs. Listen to these two beautifully and very divergent tracks to get just a tiny taste for the quality and diversity represented in this collection.
Although barely to any of those besides the hardest-core of blues junkies, Arizona Dranes was a pioneer of American rhythm and blues piano. The blind Texas-native was one of the first musicians to belt out praise-songs while playing the piano in the fire-hot style of her day. However innovative her style was for the late 1920’s, Dranes never secured a solid recording contract and only accumulated a total of 16 recorded songs. You can hear her whole catalog on the Tompkins Square Records compilation He Is My Story: The Sanctified Soul of Arizona Dranes.
But back to the winners for a brief moment: long-time Afropop friend and supporter Bonnie Raitt took home the Best Americana Album for her latest outstanding record, Slipstream. Congratulations, Bonnie! Check out the video for her reggae-tinged single, “Right Down The Line”, below.
Like always, The Grammys barely scratched the surface of non-western, non-commercial music with their televised broadcast, but similarly constant is your ability to rely on Afropop to fill in the gaps and give the Recording Association an elbow in it’s side in our own small way. Also let’s be real- Damian’s dreads aside- what was WITH that Marley tribute?