The Latin Jazz Grammy Award category has been reinstated after more than a year of continued protest, a petition and a class-action lawsuit against the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the group who funds and facilitates the Grammy Awards.
Executive Director of the San Francisco chapter of NARAS, Michael Winger, could not be reached for comment regarding the details of the decision.
Five-time Grammy-nominated musician and producer, Greg Landau, who works as an instructor in the Music Department at City College of San Francisco, said the heads of NARAS buckled under internal pressure.
“It was a top down decision and pressure from members inside caused the change,” he said. “I think it’s a real positive move, that people were able to make a change from the inside and out by talking about it.”
In an open letter to NARAS previously published in El-Tecolote, John Santos said: “It is nothing less than highly insulting to have out-of-touch individuals suddenly decide that Latin jazz is no longer a legitimate art form when the creativity and activity in the field are at an all-time high.”
“NARAS has clearly lost sight of its purpose,” said Grammy-nominated bandleader and composer Rebecca Mauleon, who is also a City College music instructor and director of education at SFJAZZ, a non-profit arts and education organization.
Other advocates for the reinstatement cite unity among jazz musicians, aficionados and the Latino community in general as a major factor in the reversal of the Latin jazz category’s elimination—one that some felt was motivated by racism and xenophobic backlash to an increased Latino cultural presence in the U.S.
Many musicians and supporters participated in the protest against NARAS. Bay Area Latino rock guitar legend Carlos Santana and his wife and touring drummer, Cindy Blackman, wrote a letter to NARAS protesting the decision to cut the category from the Grammy Awards. Bay Area Latin jazz pianist Mark Levine went as far as mailing his nominations back to NARAS, and Grammy-nominated Latin jazz musician Bobby Sanabria filed a lawsuit (that was later dropped) against NARAS, for not following proper procedures to implement changes.
Additionally, there were protests and pickets against NARAS events across the country in opposition to the removal of Latin jazz, and several other ethnic music categories.