Grammy awards rename world music category to avoid 'connotations of colonialism'

Category to be renamed best global music album, described as ‘a more relevant, modern, and inclusive term’ by Recording Academy

The Grammys are changing the name of their “best world music” album category to “best global music” album, to avoid “connotations of colonialism”.

In a statement, the Recording Academy said the change came “as we continue to embrace a truly global mindset … Over the summer we held discussions with artists, ethnomusicologists, and linguists from around the world who determined that there was an opportunity to update the best world music album category toward a more relevant, modern, and inclusive term ... The change symbolises a departure from the connotations of colonialism, folk, and ‘non-American’ that the former term embodied while adapting to current listening trends and cultural evolution among the diverse communities it may represent.”

The term “world music” was originally coined in the UK in 1987 to help market music from non-western artists. The Grammys created the best world music album category in 1992, with winners since including Ravi Shankar, Gilberto Gil and three-time recipient Angélique Kidjo.

The term has fallen out of favour more widely in recent years. The Guardian stopped using it in July 2019, tagging articles about music from non-western countries instead with a more inclusive genre descriptor such as “pop and rock” or “electronic music”.

Our world music album of the month column was, like the Grammys, renamed global album of the month. Guardian music critic Ammar Kalia reasoned that the change “does not answer the valid complaints of the artists and record label founders who have been plagued by catch-all terms. Yet, in the glorious tyranny of endless internet-fuelled musical choice, marginalised music still needs championing and signposting in the west.”

UK music festival Womad has also stopped using the term. “We understand ‘world music’ is ghettoising for a lot of the artists,” festival director Chris Smith told the Guardian. “We’re respectful of the term because it’s our heritage, but we need to evolve it because the music has evolved.”

The Grammys’ change is the latest in a number of alterations to the music industry’s most prestigious awards ceremony. In June, the Recording Academy announced best urban contemporary album would be renamed best progressive R&B album, as the term “urban” is increasingly seen as inappropriate descriptor of Black music.

Academy chairman Harvey Mason acknowledged “some uncomfortable feelings” around the term in the academy. Tyler, the Creator, who won best rap album at the 2020 Grammy awards, said: “I don’t like that ‘urban’ word. It’s just a politically correct way to say the N-word to me”, while Republic Records, home to Ariana Grande, the Weeknd and others, has stopped using the term.

The academy does, however, continue to use the word “urban” in the context of Latin awards, including the newly created best Latin pop or urban album award.

Nominations for the 2021 Grammys will be announced on 24 November.

Contributor

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
2014 Grammy awards – as it happened
It's time for the 56th Grammy Awards – join the Guardian's team from 6.30pm ET for winners, losers, tweets and points of view about Robin Thicke

Amanda Holpuch and Brian Braiker

27, Jan, 2014 @4:58 AM

Article image
Grammy nominations 2019: Cardi B, Kendrick Lamar and Drake lead the pack
Strong showing for female and hip-hop artists suggest renewed focus on diversity – but it’s a mediocre year for British acts

Laura Snapes

07, Dec, 2018 @4:31 PM

Article image
Who will – and should – win the 2021 Grammy awards?
Beyoncé is looking to convert her nine nominations while Billie Eilish could repeat her success last year – but there’s strong competition from Dua Lipa and Taylor Swift, and an all-female rock lineup

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

10, Mar, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
Lizzo, Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X top 2020 Grammy nominations
Lizzo scores eight nominations with Eilish and Lil Nas X on six, but British artists largely snubbed in major categories

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

20, Nov, 2019 @2:50 PM

Article image
The Weeknd pledges permanent Grammys boycott
The Canadian star – who had the biggest song of 2020 yet earned no Grammy nominations – will no longer submit music for consideration

Laura Snapes

12, Mar, 2021 @11:12 AM

Article image
The Weeknd alleges Grammys corruption after nominations snub
Justin Bieber, Teyana Taylor and Nicki Minaj joined the Canadian pop star in criticising the Recording Academy’s process following 2021 shortlist announcement

Laura Snapes

25, Nov, 2020 @10:35 AM

Article image
'The way I am is an outrage': the Indigenous Brazilian musicians taking back a burning country
A vibrant underground of rap, metal, folk and more is thriving among Brazil’s embattled tribes, who are standing up to Bolsonaro’s environment policies

Beatriz Miranda

26, Oct, 2020 @10:50 AM

Article image
Daft Punk to perform with Stevie Wonder at 2014 Grammys

Band's appearance will feature a host of Random Access Memories collaborators and the 63-year-old soul singer

Harriet Gibsone

06, Jan, 2014 @11:40 AM

Article image
Britain's reign at the Grammys comes to an end as diversity flourishes | Ben Beaumont-Thomas
With Ed Sheeran, Calvin Harris and various One Direction members snubbed, it paves the way for one of the most ethnically diverse Grammys ever – though female musicians have been sidelined

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

28, Nov, 2017 @4:03 PM

Article image
Natalia Lafourcade and Residente win big at 2020 Latin Grammy awards
Alejandro Sanz wins record of the year prize while J Balvin wins his first ever Latin Grammy at emotional ceremony

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

20, Nov, 2020 @12:01 PM