As we reported in April, the Recording Academy has "restructured" its Grammy Award categories and in so doing eliminated a number of them, including that of Native American Album. In an interview with Canadian website The Province, Carlos Santana said of the Academy, "I think they're racist. Period."
"First of all we have so many categories of Country & Western," he said. "Country & Western people have seven to nine to 10 (awards) shows a year and you seldom see Negroes or Latin people. You can’t eliminate black gospel music or Hawaiian music or American Indian music or Latin jazz music because all this music represents what United States is: a social experiment."
Albums that would have been considered for the Native American Album category will now be judged against releases in the Hawaiian, Zydeco/Cajun and polka genres; the new hybrid award is for the Best Regional Roots Music Album. Santana, who has won 10 Grammys in his more than 40-year career, said the decision was opaque and unfair: "They didn’t even tell other members, only certain people voted, overnight. A lot of people didn’t know this had passed. Quincy Jones didn’t know, Herbie Hancock didn’t know."
Santana's comments came just a couple of weeks after four Latin jazz artists, whose category was also eliminated, filed a complaint in New York State Supreme Court alleging the change harms their livelihood. “There’s nothing like having the ability to say ‘Grammy-nominated,’ ‘Grammy Award-winning,’ ” said Roger Maldonado, lawyer for plaintiffs Robert Sanabria, Benjamin Lapidus, Mark Levine and Eugene Marlow, as quoted in the Washington Post.
In May, Sanabria led a coalition of over 30 artists, including Santana, Hancock, Paul Simon and Andy Garcia, who sent a letter to the Recording Academy that called the changes "blatantly racist" and the reasoning behind them "utter nonsense," according to the L.A. Times.
Following Santana's latest remarks, however, Garcia seems to be dialing down his outrage, "Racism is a very harsh word," he said in a video interview posted to Fox News Latino. But nonetheless he remains disappointed in the Academy, saying the dropped categories "are very important to the tapestry and fabric of American music. And some of the categories they dropped are essential to some of the great artists in America, like Dizzy Gillespie, who dabbled in all those things. So I think he would be very upset also."
Although primarily famous as a actor, Garcia has won multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy awards.
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