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In 2018 I formally presented these findings to the academy, and a committee was established to review imbalances in regional and class representation. This past summer, a talented and inaugural diversity and inclusion officer was hired.
Nonetheless, the nominations in 2021’s newly baptised Global Music category (Antibalas, Burna Boy, Bebel Gilberto, Anoushka Shankar and Tinariwen, the latter of which won a Grammy in 2011 for an album I produced) are arguably less diverse than ever. Four out of five nominations were bestowed upon artists that have already been nominated once or multiple times.
Two of these are on record labels tied to two of the three-largest-remaining music conglomerates (Universal and Warner). We see the same artists nominated over and over again in a category that can feel closed off to everyone else
No artist from any previously unrecognised nation was honoured and all but one hail from major players in the global economy – the US, Brazil (the world’s ninth-largest economy), Nigeria (Africa’s most populous nation) and the UK.
Global music is the only Grammy category in which more than 89.2% of the Earth’s population – non-English and non-Spanish speakers – have even a remote chance of receiving any recognition from the academy.
It possesses the potential to be the Grammys’ most dizzyingly unpredictable, varied and all-encompassing category and – in the academy’s own words – it aims to be “truly global”.
But only 5.8% of nations have ever had an artist win and almost 80% of African nations have yet to have any musical act nominated.
No Middle Eastern or eastern European performer has ever won and only one group from eastern Europe (Bulgaria in 1994) has ever even managed a nomination.
Similarly, just a single east, central or south-east Asia-based artist has won (Sacred Tibetan Chant, 2004), with that award actually going to the producer, a New Zealander.