This morning I was listening to WBAI radio (wake up call segment) and the discussion was about the controversial win by Amy Winehouse at the MOBO Music Awards, last week – she was awarded the Best UK Female…
MOBO stands for Music of Black Origins… the question being raised: "should a white woman win this award?" Now anyone who knows Amy's music, her voice and style can appreciate that this woman is fierce and has an incredibly soulful style…if you didn't know she was white you'd think she was Black. She's the shit!
My understanding is that this award show was created to celebrate the music of Black British artists and artist's African descent (internationally). In the WBAI interview with a Black reporter in ... (I didn't catch his name Henry something, he was some sort of creative director for the only Black owned radio station in the UK. His argument was that if the intention for the MOBO's: "is to celebrate the vision of Black music and Black British artists – it hasn't quite turned out that way."
The issues that were brought up in the conversation were the idea of "inclusive and exclusive." He mentioned that awards have been won by Eminem, Joss stone and George Michael. He argued that Black music awards gets NO financial support – unless they have larger sponsors like "Mastercard" and that it wasn't until it went mainstream that it began receiving "white support." And once this did happen when the larger sponsors got involved it changed the dynamic of the show.
In the interview they got into how the categories are added or dropped according to who's sponsoring the awards shows that artists who should be nominated aren't. The British reporter spoke about how when it looks like a bigger artist is coming they create a special category for them i.e. Little Kim won the MOBO fashion icon award category – the following year it was dropped. It seems like it has become more about the money than the people the MOBO awards were initially created to honor.
There's this need to want to keep with its original focus but it's not what's been happening. How do you hold on to something that is authentically "yours" and not be exclusive? They talked about the importance of recognizing that white artist are inspired by Black urban culture (they used Elvis Presley as an example) – but I think the question is who is this show created for? The show started in 1996 and you see the change in the direction…in the names of those who are attending the event, artists who are performing at it, and then those who are being nominated…and this has some people upset.
While I was listening I thought about the Latin Grammy Awards shows and wondered what if Beyonce won the award for best Latin Female…the purpose for these kinds of shows that I will admit and can accept that they are in fact "exclusive" in nature…it's a moment where artists Black or Latin can be recognized for their contributions and influence of Black or Latin music on the mainstream. It's a place for these artists to come together and get recognition where they might get overlooked for the Grammy – it's a night for them to shine.
The founder of the MOBO is quoted as saying she feels "it's better to be inclusive and not be exclusive." To me it sounds a little like selling out…what about holding on to the initial intention? She's also quoted as saying "A celebration of Black artists can not exclude white artist." OK I can agree with this – no one is saying white folks can't attend – but still how do you give a "Best Black Female Artist award" to a white woman?
The reporter acknowledged that the argument could be made that a white person who's from the city might take great offense to not be considered urban…saying this could be considered "Musical apartheid." He said something like… Amy Winehouse is Jewish – would a Black person win some sort of award in Israel? He talked about how easy it is for anyone to claim they're Black - - without learning the history. That if one wanted to be an actor in Bollywood – one would learn about Indian history.
Why are we multiracial when everyone else isn't!