The Monk Music group – of which Machel Montano is a part – has three albums up for Grammy consideration for the 66th annual Grammy Awards to be held on February 4-5 next year.
Skinny Fabulous’ B.A.D (Beyond A Doubt), Hey Choppi’s Saga Boy, and St Lucian band Lu City’s Lucidity are the considered albums under the Best Global Music Album category.
Montano posted about the achievement on his Instagram page on Tuesday saying, “Caribbean music up for consideration in the Best Global Music Album category at the 66th annual Grammy Awards. Very proud of the albums Monk Music releases this year…”
He wished the artistes best of luck.
In a phone interview on October 18, Gamal “Skinny Fabulous” Doyle said the process to Grammy consideration began about a year and a half ago.
They will be informed by the first week in November if nominated, he said.
For Skinny Fabulous, the consideration is only the beginning of soca music’s acknowledgement as a genre by the Recording Academy.
“It is a step in the right direction. Obviously, the door is not as open as we would like it to be as yet because we are still under a category that is not representative of us specifically.
“We have been able to, sort of; squeeze our way into a category that is just global music, which means we are now up against everything: Asian, Korean, African music. Any type of music that does not really have a category but that now puts us very wide.
“While it is a good accomplishment, it is also not particularly representative of the type of music we are doing. It also makes it a lot more difficult for us to secure the nomination. We are not in a pool of Caribbean musicians. We are in a pool of all musicians.”
Sakura by Masa Takumi was the winner in that category this year.
The category was first awarded in 1992 and went through changes over the years – at one time being split into two categories – but was remerged in 2012.
Beninese-French singer, songwriter Angelique Kidjo has won this award the most with five wins. Nigerian artiste Burna Boy won the award in 2021 with Twice as Tall. He has since gone on to receive numerous awards including Nigeria’s Order of the Federal Republic.
For years, soca artistes have been advocating for the genre to be officially recognised by the Recording Academy. In 2012 and 2013 Montano was also considered for a Grammy nomination.
Montano recently performed at the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington DC, commonly known as the Kennedy Center, at the event Club Quarantine Live with D-Nice and special guests.
The centre’s website said, “After making history as the first DJ and hip hop artist to headline the Kennedy Center Opera House, legendary artist, DJ, photographer, and Kennedy Center Hip Hop Culture Council Member D-Nice brings Club Quarantine Live – his dynamic, multi-genre celebration of music, community, and love – back for another year. Hosted by comedian Chris Spencer and featuring Igmar Thomas’ Revive Big Band, this event also includes special guests Camp Lo, Frédéric Yonnet, Jadakiss, Kem, Machel Montano, MC Lyte, Muni Long, Shanice, Tracie Spencer, and Vin Rock of Naughty by Nature.”
Several of the genre’s top artistes spoke about soca getting a Grammy and being recognised by the academy.
Asked if he thinks a nomination would help in the call for soca to be recognised as a genre or Caribbean music having its own category, Skinny Fabulous said, "Yes."
“If we have that stripe behind us then we would have a voice that is worth listening to. Being considered is great, being nominated is greater and, obviously, the greatest, would be getting the award.
“But, for each step we get closer to the award is the more value we have to the voice we can speak and advocate for a category that is a little more suitable for us. Even if it is a Caribbean music category which you could throw in the reggae, dancehall, Caribbean, it is still a little bit closer to what we do….”
There is, however, a Grammy award for Best Reggae Album which was first awarded in 1985, with Jimmy Cliff, Shabba Ranks and Beenie Man.
Skinny Fabulous said soca musicians do the Carnival circuit every year and are rewarded by fans and their reactions. They are also rewarded when they do tours and make a living for themselves but, this reward went to the heart, he said.
“This type of recognition makes it worthwhile. It gives the soul the reasoning behind why we do music. I think everybody is hopeful,” he added.
While winning a Grammy can benefit the country’s music industry as a whole, legendary music producer and musician Carl “Beaver” Henderson believes that a Grammy win (which includes the entire process from consideration, to nomination, to win) requires a collective effort.
For him, the Grammy consideration means that the music has garnered attention.
“Once you get the attention, obviously, it will help your industry. At the end of the day, the entertainment business is about being relevant and getting the attention of the time. To be in that pool, you have to earn it.
“You cannot just wake up a day and say, ‘We should have a category.’ You have to earn it.”
He said digits had to be looked at to say if soca and calypso have earned that. By that he means, numbers, what sales are like, what downloads are like, streaming numbers among others.
“As much as we live in this Carnival bubble, we are somewhat small compared to the rest of world like the Asian market, but our music is powerful. The fact that our music is powerful and has so much history, we cannot just rest on our laurels and take it for granted that we’ve earned it just by us being here long enough,” Beaver said.
He said Trinidad and Tobago’s problem was that the industry did not work together as much as it should.
The industry needed to get together and look at numbers compared to other genres like Afrobeats.
“You spoke about Afrobeats. Look at the African continent, billions of people there also and the Afrobeats thing did not happen overnight.”
Beaver said the market was different now because of downloads/streaming; people were doing more singles as opposed to albums.
The Grammys is based around album sales and there were very few openings for singles, he said.
“Most of the artistes here do singles and not necessarily albums. We did more albums in the 60s,70s and 80s. Soca has become, unfortunately, more of a hustle than a business.
“So we have to structure ourselves into their rules and regulations if we want to get into that Grammy circle…”
Beaver said years ago there weren’t as many carnivals but now because there were more carnivals, there were more openings and opportunities for artistes but instead of structuring it properly, it became a hustle.
However, he was optimistic of TT and its musicians getting there and ultimately winning a Grammy as the music “was powerful enough.”
Beaver said Trinidadians might appreciate their musical products during Carnival because of the amount of alcohol that was being shared and distributed at that time but, at the Recording Academy, they did not listen to music in a party, feteing with a drink in hand.
“We have to look at our material that way. Quality first. I know a lot of younger artistes say, ‘Don’t study that, it is the vibe.’
“It is the vibe for the moment but the vibe is a short-lasting thing. I am not saying there is no quality in our industry, there is and a lot of young producers coming up are striving for that great quality.
“But there is so much more that is not of good quality,” he said.
However, the news of the Grammy considerations gave rise to joy for the other recipients.
Lu City posted to its Instagram account saying, “Blood, sweat and tears. From a small island to the world. For your consideration Grammys 2024.” The St Lucian duo of Jean Atem and Ryie are described as “a unique dancehall/R&B blend” on submithub.com.
“Although they are inspired by international pop, rap, dancehall and R&B artistes, Lu City’s Caribbean upbringing also has a major influence on their beats and lyrics. The result is an unexpected and upscale sound to come out of the tiny island of St Lucia; with catchy beats, relatable lyrics and smooth melodies they possess an obvious potential for international listener-ship,” the bio said.
Hey Choppi also posted to his Instagram account saying, “A A check you nah! Grateful for the journey, excited for the possibilities. For your consideration Saga Boy, Hey Choppi, Monk Music Group, Grammy consideration, vote.”
Soca is not the only TT genre up for Grammy consideration, local indie-pop band Sea Bath is also up for Grammy consideration in the Global Music Performance category.
The band posted to its Facebook page on Monday saying its song Gilloteen was a “love letter to workers of the world” and its way of introducing the Caribbean pop sound of SeaBath.
It added that it was grateful to be considered by the Recording Academy and excited to share its song with the Grammy voting community.
It thanked everyone who helped put Gilloteen together especially its producer, engineer and fifth member Dominik Gryzbon.
The new categories added to the Grammys this year were: Best African Music Performance, Best Alternative Jazz Album and Best Pop Dance Recording, a Variety.com article said.