There’s a local push for a Cajun/Zydeco Grammy Award.
September 25, 2002
In a letter to The Daily Advertiser published Sept. 6, a local lady thanked the paper for their coverage on the local efforts to establish a Cajun/Zydeco Grammy Award category. She wrote that the newspaper’s reporters are “honest and passionate. They are not cocky, nor are they cynical like some at another small neighboring weekly.”
She apparently was referring to a small item by Staff Writer Nick Pittman that ran in the Aug. 14 issue of The Times, which read in part: “This will be the Academy’s third visit to Lafayette in less than a year. Does this mean that a Cajun/Zydeco Grammy is closer to fruition? Stay tuned to find out. Does this mean that future releases in this hypothetical category will be as watered-down as other Grammy winners/contenders? Let’s hope not.”
There are easily enough Cajun and zydeco releases in Louisiana alone to justify a category for the Grammy Awards. But there aren’t enough people in Louisiana who are members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the folks who pass out the Grammys. So if more Louisiana artists get on board, they can create a sound constituency to get the category established.
Now, why is this important? Some believe that establishing the category will somehow validate the local music here and make it more accessible to a national audience. Others believe it will lead to greater financial stability for local musicians.
The lady who wrote the letter took offense at Pittman’s use of the phrase “hypothetical category,” even though the phrase is grammatically correct. The category doesn’t exist, but it could one day. She wrote, “What could they possibly know about these artists who create ‘watered down’ music? They obviously don’t.”
We don’t know squat over here, but Newsweek seems to think it does. In a March 11, 2002, article titled “Looking Grim at the Grammys,” it wrote: “Ralph Stanley’s performance of ‘O Death’ wasn’t the only ominous note. This may have been the swan song for the music industry as we know it. But does anybody care?”
According to the article, this year’s Grammy Awards ceremony telecast had fewer viewers than in any of the last six awards ceremonies, with 21 percent fewer viewers than last year’s. By the end of the show, only half of the audience was even left.
It’s common knowledge that the music business, as a whole, is in the toilet. Last year, the recording industry lost $600 million dollars in revenue. The Newsweek article pontificated on why the music business is falling on such hard times: “We could list reasons from now until Sunday: the recession, post-September 11 shell shock, revenue lost to CD-burning and Internet file-sharing. All valid. But they wouldn’t be having as much impact if the music made us care.”
Maybe that’s what Pittman was referring to when he wrote “watered down.” And he has a valid point. All the music on the radio sounds the same because it is the same. Newsweek pointed out that five corporations control 83 percent of the $14.3 billion a year music industry, including the record labels, the radio stations, the music television networks and the media outlets that publicize the music.
The letter writer stated, “Our own indigenous artists are true roots music artists and what they create is as real as any music on the planet. It could never be called ‘watered down.’ They have accomplished amazing things and they should (be) recognized. We are going to make sure they are.”
She’s right. Our local musicians are national treasures. That’s why, in the last couple of years alone, The Times has written about Clifton Chenier, BeauSoleil, Boozoo Chavis, Marc Savoy, Ann Savoy, Buckwheat Zydeco, Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys, The Dr. Tommy Comeaux Endowed Fund for Traditional Music, Calvin Carrière, Sonny Landreth, Lil’ Band O’ Gold, D.L. Menard, Freddie Pate’s Jamboree, Merlin Fontenot, Santy Runyon, The Swamp ‘n’ Roll Show, The Louisiana Stomp, Wilbert Guillory, the South Louisiana Bluegrass Association, Louisiana Folkroots, the Dewey Balfa Cajun and Creole Heritage Week, Louisiana Crossroads, Dirk Powell, The Shondells, Frigg A-Go-Go, Festivals Acadiens, Festival International de Louisiane, The Bluerunners, The Red Stick Ramblers, Marc Broussard, Da Entourage, the loss of KRVS in Lake Charles and even the local push to get a Cajun/Zydeco Grammy Award category.
But, our letter writer may be walking on thin ice when she says that local music “could never be watered down.” Remember Rockin’ Sidney’s “My Toot Toot?” That won a Grammy. Was that prescription strength?