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2013 Grammy Nominees in World, Reggae, New Age, and Roots Music

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Amadou and Mariam - 'Folila'

Amadou and Mariam - 'Folila'

(c) Nonesuch Records, 2012

The winners have been announced! Scroll down to see who took home a Grammy.

The nominees for the 55th Annual Grammy Awards have been handed down, and for the second time since the massive Grammy category restructuring that took place after the 2011 awards. The list of nominees is, well... it's short. For my part of the About.com taxonomy, I used to report on 7-10 categories. Now just three fall fully under my umbrella (Best World Music Album, Best New Age Album, and Best Reggae Album), and the Best Regional Roots Album category is consistently populated with non-Anglophone North American traditions, so I try to chime in on those, too. But still, that's half as many (if not fewer) artists than there used to be that could even vaguely be considered world music.

Brevity is not always bad -- the nominees now are consistently stronger than they were just three years ago, and in a lot of ways, the category restructuring makes a lot of sense. I still have concerns about the marginalization of artists of color and non-Anglophone artists and how they fit into this new construction, though. NARAS (the organization that governs the Grammy Awards) is an independent body and can do whatever they want, I suppose, but they're in a tremendous position to offer exposure to artists from wildly different traditions, and in their decisions about categories and (generally) their decisions about what's worthy of the live broadcast, they've made it clear that musical diversity is not a priority. But enough about NARAS, how 'bout these nominees? Check them out:

Best World Music Album

  • Amadou et Mariam - Folila
  • Daniel Ho - On A Gentle Island Breeze
  • Hugh Masekela - Jabulani
  • Anoushka Shankar - Traveller
  • WINNER: Ravi Shankar - The Living Room Sessions Part 1

Well, this should be an interesting category. My money's on Amadou & Mariam, the Malian pop duo who've been the darlings of the world music scene for many years, and who gained major international prominence when Manu Chao produced their 2004 album Dimanche a Bamako, which was also Grammy-nominated. They've certainly earned a Grammy with their excellent Folila, but the other albums here are also deserving. Daniel Ho's album is a cool one: he took traditional Taiwanese melodies and reworked them for slack-key guitar. Jabulani sees Hugh Masekela, the legend of African jazz, also reworking old songs into new arrangements, this time traditional South African wedding songs. The father and daughter Shankars are fun to see on the same list, and though it might seem that it'd be hard to choose between them, their albums are very different. Anoushka's Traveller fuses Classical Indian music with flamenco, whereas Ravi's The Living Room Sessions see him performing his classical style, just stripped-down a bit (it's just him and a tabla drummer). It'll be interesting to see who takes this one home.

Best Reggae Album

  • WINNER: Jimmy Cliff - Rebirth
  • The Original Wailers - Miracle
  • Sean Paul - Tomahawk Technique
  • Sly & Robbie & The Jam Masters - New Legend - Jamaica 50th Edition
  • Toots And The Maytals - Reggae Got Soul: Unplugged On Strawberry Hill

In this category, my money's on Jimmy Cliff. These are five great records right here, all of which are certainly worthy, but Cliff's is the only one that's really remarkable, inasmuch as it's notably better than anything he's done in years, and really shows a return to greatness for one of reggae's legends.

Best Regional Roots Album

  • Keola Beamer - Malama Ko Aloha (Keep Your Love)
  • Radmilla Cody - Shi Kéyah - Songs For The People
  • Weldon Kekauoha - Pilialoha
  • Corey Ledet with Anthony Dopsie, Dwayne Dopsie, and André Thierry - Nothin' But The Best
  • WINNER: Wayne Toups, Steve Riley, & Wilson Savoy - The Band Courtbouillon

This is the category where I always have a tough time calling the winner, because I've always got friends among the nominees (I worked with non-Anglophone American Roots music for many years before I became a critic, and it remains a special passion of mine). I will say a few things, though: first off, I'm glad to see a non-Hawaiian Native American artist nominated (the beautiful Radmilla Cody, of the Dine nation). None were nominated last year, and I was concerned that we'd be seeing continued marginalization of that musical tradition in favor of better known genres like zydeco or traditional New Orleans brass band music (last year's winner was the Rebirth Brass Band), but this is a good sign. There are still plenty of traditions that aren't represented, though, and with a field this small covering so many genres, that'll be a constant battle, unfortunately.

Best New Age Album

  • WINNER: Omar Akram - Echoes Of Love
  • Krishna Das - Live Ananda
  • Michael Brant DeMaria - Bindu
  • Steven Halpern - Deep Alpha
  • Peter Kater - Light Body
  • Loreena McKennitt - Troubadours On The Rhine

I confess that I haven't heard all of these albums, but I think Loreena McKennitt has this one in the bag, despite the fact that Troubadours on the Rhine is not the strongest album she's ever released. The others are definitely contenders, though, particularly kirtan performer Krishna Das, whose nomination this year is his second.

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