Latin jazz musicians protested with signs and loud music outside the Grammy Awards on Sunday as they continued their nearly yearlong fight to reinstate 31 categories which were eliminated by the Recording Academy in 2011.
About 70 artists and their supporters took to the streets near the Staples Center while the Grammy pre-telecast was taking place. After the demonstration the group was scheduled to perform at a showcase at Mama Juana's nightclub in Studio City as a way to celebrate their music, show unity and send a message to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) that rallying will continue to bring back the categories.
"We're creating public awareness more than anything else," said Bobby Matos, a longtime Latin jazz musician. "We're not here to stop here anybody from entering the Grammys. We're just hoping that NARAS realizes that they made a mistake. In a perfect world they would reverse their decision today, do it on the air and announce a (special) concert for those categories."
Recently at a Grammy event, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villraigosa said he understands what the musicians are going through.
"I love Latin jazz and I love salsa" Villaraigosa said. "I understand that what people are looking for is inclusion. We've got to celebrate that."
Bruce Springsteen, who opened the 54th Grammy Awards, was sent a memo asking him to acknowledge the group during the telecast, said Bobby Matos, a protesting musician.
Roberto Lovato, co-founder of the Latino advocacy group presente.org, said that there has been outreach to NARAS President Neil Portnow, but nothing has been resolved.
"It's going to take the opening of the heart and the mind and Neil Portnow and the small group of cronies that made this decision," Lovato said. "They need to take a moment to take their eyes off all the glitter, the money and look at the roots (of the music eliminated). This is about the future of music in the United States."
Lovato said he also wants to see Springsteen to stand up for the musicians affected by the eliminations. Additionally, he wants to see Portnow take action.
"Grammy has taken the route of greed and inequity," Lovato said. "Greed and inequity is not what gave birth to Whitney Houston who started off as a gospel singer, one of the categories eliminated. We're happy that she's being embraced, but we also embrace Whitney Houston as one of our own. She started in our communities, in our churches, in our neighborhoods before she entered the limelight of the Grammys."
Matos said that group is not going to be happy until the group gets their categories back, adding that the cuts severely affects the careers of many musicians.
On Thursday (Feb. 9) a group of Latin jazz musicians delivered a reported 23,000 signatures at the Recording Academy headquarters to show the support from music fans across the nation.
After last year's April announcement to eliminate the categories, which affects several genres, Latin jazz musicians Ben Lapidus, Mark Levine, Eugene Marlow and Bobby Sanabria filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court in New York. The complaint indicates musicians are being harmed by the elimination of their category in a breach by NARAS' "contractual obligations."
During an interview with Billboard.biz last week, Portnow conveyed his dissatisfaction with the lawsuit and protests.
"We prefer those that work with us," Portnow said. "For those who take a hard line with lawsuits and protests, that's their choice. It wouldn't be my preference as a way to work together." The Rev. Jesse Jackson recently said he was concerned about cuts and sent a letter to Portnow over the elimination of categories that went from 109 to 78, changes that included the end of gender-based categories in pop, R&B, rock and country. The Academy also eliminated separate awards for male or female vocals instead having an award in each genre for a single "solo performance."