A coalition of musicians is demanding the Recording Academy restore more than 30 categories cut from the Grammy Awards, alleging the reductions unfairly target ethnic music and were done without the input of its thousands of members.
A protest was planned Thursday in Beverly Hills, Calif., at an academy board meeting. It is part of a campaign by those upset by last month's decision to reduce the Grammy fields, which this year totaled 109, to 78.
Grammy president Neil Portnow said changes would be in effect for the 2012 Grammys. He urged dissenters to work with the academy, which would examine the effect of the changes for the 2013 awards.
But protesters hope the process could be reversed in time for next year's Grammy ceremony if at least one board member asks the academy to reconsider.
"Hopefully during that time, someone will rise and be brave enough and do this," Bobby Sanabria, a four-time Grammy nominee in the Latin jazz category and a leader of the movement against the changes, said in an interview Wednesday.
The Academy announced the changes April 6; the move came after a more than yearlong examination of the awards structure, the first in the Grammys' 50-plus year history. Portnow said at the time that the changes would make the Grammys more competitive, and the awards more coveted.
But the move upset many Academy members, who were taken off guard by the announcement.
Paul Simon wrote a letter to Portnow asking him to reconsider, writing, in part: "I believe the Grammys have done a disservice to many talented musicians by combining previously distinct and separate types of music into a catch-all of blurry larger categories."
Carlos Santana and his wife, Cindy Blackman Santana, a drummer, wrote a letter to the Academy, saying: "To remove Latin Jazz and many other ethnic categories is doing a huge disservice to the brilliant musicians who keep the music vibrant for their fans — new and old."
Sanabria, who is working with musicians including Eddie Palmieri and Arturo O'Farrill, said ethnic music was unfairly targeted, and called it a "subtle form of racism."
"The effect will be that the music will be very, very homogenous. It's already starting to sound like that already," he said.
The Recording Academy's board meeting ends today. If it concludes with the changes still in place, Sanabria is vowing boycotts of the Grammys, broadcast partner CBS and sponsors of the show.