JUNO Awards Committee Makes Awards Show Look Bad

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NNL Visitors December 2 2010THUNDER BAY – Editorial – “What would you do, if you were told that no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t change this world”? Those opening words from Shy-Anne’s song “Change this World” have taken on a new, and perhaps deeper meaning. The JUNO Awards Committee have disqualified Shy-Anne’s album “Pseudo” from competing in the Aboriginal Music category. The JUNO Awards Committee has deemed her music is not “Aboriginal enough”.

Since the decision was made, hundreds of people from all over the world are finding out about this completely silly decision. On NetNewsledger.com visitors from Texas, Mississippi, Missourri, London ON, Brazil, Santa Maria California, Kansas, Milton Keynes UK, and of course across Canada. The list of readers finding out about this decision continues to grow.

The JUNO Awards will be held, in Toronto, celebrating the Award’s 40th Anniversary in 2011. Sponsors include the City of Toronto, the Province of Ontario, and the federal government, along with a host of corporate sponsors. It is a sad start to this special anniversary that the Awards Committee has decided that the People’s Choice Female Entertainer of the Year at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Awards has music that isn’t “Aboriginal enough”?

“It was the opinion of the screening committee that your album “Pseudo” does not fit into the Aboriginal Album of the Year category and must be disqualified. The criteria for this category specifies that “Eligible music styles include all traditional Aboriginal music: Iroquois, Social Pow Wow Drum (e.g. Sioux, Assiniboine, Cree, Ojibway & Blackfoot, etc.); all Hand Drums (e.g. Inuit, Dene, Cree, Mic Mak, West Coast, etc.); Inuit Throat Singing; Traditional Flutes; Metis, Cree & Mic Mac Fiddling. In addition, fusions of all genres of contemporary music that incorporate the above and/or reflect the unique Aboriginal experience in Canada, by virtue of words or music.”

Calls to the JUNO office were not returned. Perhaps the JUNO Awards Committee has decided the safest thing they can do is simply hide out. It is likely that many people are going to accuse the Committee of racism over this decision. That does not appear to be the case.

The likely reality is in making the decision, the JUNO Committee may have been completely unaware of the scope that music fans from around North America and around the world would feel over their decision to tell Shy-Anne that her music is not “Aboriginal enough”.

When you listen to the music of some of the other Aboriginal artists, it appears that the JUNO Committee may be up for an award for the most ham-fisted decision in Canadian musical history. Unless the JUNO Committee believes that Aboriginal music can only be the drumming of the Pow Wow Drum, the decision against allowing Pseudo to compete makes no sense at all.

Another issue facing the JUNO Awards is that they likely will have to revise their categories for the awards. In the Aboriginal Awards category, if it is for a specific style of music, then that should be applied across the board, not in what appears to be a selective manner here.

Committees that make these kinds of decisions, which are usually made behind closed doors, do not expect to have their decisions questioned, especially in public. In this case, it appears what will happen is either the JUNO Awards will have to completely reverse their decision, or risk looking very silly around the world.

Now, that might not matter to the JUNO Awards Committee, but it might to their sponsors, as countless people around the world read about the kinds of decisions that they are making.

For me, this move by the JUNO Awards diminishes the awards that many famous Canadian artists have won. It makes me think that behind the closed doors decisions have been made in the past that made the awards less than fair.

There is an appeals process for the Aboriginal Album of the Year that the JUNO Committee has decided in Shy-Anne’s case her album isn’t “Aboriginal enough”. Music fans can hope that in this case, the Awards Committee comes to the conclusion that music is in the soul of the artist, and that in her music, Shy-Anne shares her Aboriginal heritage and passion.

We can all hope that common sense will prevail. After all, this initial decision is so terribly wrong that it must be reversed.

“Let’s Change this world”. Those words have become like a new anthem in Thunder Bay and across Northwestern Ontario. Based on the interest from around the world, it appears that goal is one shared by a far larger audience than anyone could have imagined.

The question for the JUNO Awards Committee is do they understand? Or care?

James Murray

www.junoawards.ca | www.carasonline.ca
www.musicounts.ca | www.musicompte.ca