The Recording Academy has announced that the Grammy Awards have renamed the international category for “Best World Album” to “Best Global Album”. The Grammys said that this was in line with being culturally sensitive to the modern world. This follows months after the Oscars renamed the international category “Best Foreign Language Film” to “Best International Feature Film”. The Grammys are known to be a historically white awards show that consistently favours white musicians. The international category, on the other hand, has consistently been dominated by nominees from Africa and those in the diaspora.
The announcement took place on Monday, November 2nd. In a public statement, the Recording Academy wrote:
“As we continue to embrace a truly global mindset, we update our language to reflect a more appropriate categorization that seeks to engage and celebrate the current scope of music from around the world”.
A panel of experts were integral for the name change. According to Pitchfork, progressive artists, ethnomusicologists, and linguists from around the world were consulted. While at first this change may come across as arbitrary to some, language has always been a means of gatekeeping. The “world” in this instance, meant that America was not a part of the rest of the world but in fact, superior to other countries. Furthermore, the former name weighted English music more thereby promoting colonialist sentiments.
Four-time Grammy award winner Angelique Kidjo has always been vocal about the outdated categorisation of the awards show. In an interview with OkayAfrica, Kidjo, pushed back against the patronising attitudes embodied by the Grammys. The musician emphasised that Africa is not a country and that African music is unique and distinct, having developed global music trends in the process.
This is how the Grammys describe the new category:
“This category recognizes excellence in albums of world music, including recordings of international non-Western classical music, international non-American and non-British traditional folk music, international cross-cultural music based on the previously mentioned genres as well as international recordings of world beat, world jazz (with a higher percentage of world than jazz music), world pop and cross-cultural music. Albums of reggae, Latin or European pop music aren’t eligible in this category and should be entered in other categories as appropriate.”
The “Best World Album” has previously been won by Brazilian artists five times––more than any other nationality. South Africa has won twice with ensemble group Ladysmith Black Mambazo clinching wins in both 2014 and 2018. Beninese artist Angelique Kidjo has been nominated nine times and won four times. This year, Kidjo went up against self-proclaimed African Giant Burna Boy and won. Kidjo then dedicated her “Best World Album” to Burna Boy who she claimed had never left his Nigerian roots.