I sense a shift in the 2016 Latin Grammy nominations; a shift towards the long tail of works created by Latin artists that are mostly out of mainstream media coverage.
The long tail (as applied to the topic at hand) are those artists and albums that are not in the top of the commercial lists or normal critics preferences. Instead, they constitute a long list albums that may be great in quality but lack in commercial prowess.
The Long Tail
The “long tail” term was introduced by Chris Anderson in his book “he Long Tail”. There Anderson explains the economic concept of how the internet has served as an equalizer for the small guys. One of the main examples Chris provides in the book, is precisely about music, and the old record stores vs. the new music online. Record stores could not carry all the records available as there was not enough physical room for that. However, with digital stores, the catalog of music available could be as huge as it wants to be.
Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations tend to favor artists that are mainstream media darlings. There are some exceptions mixed in. The way I see it, this may not necessarily be bias against lesser known artists. Maybe it’s that Grammy reviewers don’t know of these lesser known artists. As a result, they tended to dismiss their recordings. However, that seems to be changing!
2016 Latin Grammy Long Tailers
This 2016 Latin Grammy nominations show a turn towards the long tail artists. Here are several examples that I hope illustrate my point on this.
Album of the Year – Jose Lugo “Donde Estan” – Luguito has produced 3 great quality albums with his group Guasabara. I would not be surprised if he just got the nomination for Best Salsa Album. This would be a well deserved distinction (see my review of “Donde Estan” HERE). I was gladly surprised to see that he also got the nomination for Album of the Year. Lugo was the only Salsa and/or Tropical artist nominated in this category. Additionally, he was the only indie label represented in the category. I’m pulling for Luguito, even when he didn’t live to see and savor this recognition to his work.
Best Salsa Album; Bobby Valentin “Mi Ritmo es Bueno” – as far as I can remember, this is the 1st ever Grammy nomination for “El Rey del Bajo”. Bobby has had a long and prosperous career where he has been a big influencer in the Salsa genre. Bobby Valentin was one of the 1st artist that broke ranks from Fania Records in the top of his career to form his own record label and have full control of his recording finances. To this day, he is also one of the few record label owners that does not support having his music (from his Bronco label) on streaming media.
Best Traditional Tropical Album; Banco Popular “Cuba y Puerto Rico Son” – for over 20 years Banco Popular de Puerto Rico has been producing this Christmas specials. These specials have been enjoyed by Puerto Ricans as well as other Latin Americans because of the quality of their music. This is the 1st time that I can recall, that a Banco Popular production has been recognized with a Latin Grammy nomination. That’s quite an accomplishment for this narrow-niched, self-produced album.
Best Folk Album; Grupo Mapeye “En Las Islas Canarias” – the veteran Puerto Rican folk group finally gets recognized for the 1st time with a Grammy nomination. I hope this inspires other folk groups to keep on producing good music.
Best Latin Jazz Album – the uniqueness in this category is that, as far as I can tell, only one of the five artists nominated is a household name in the genre. Arturo O’Farrill stands as the only artist that may be recognized by most Latin Jazz fans. His album “Cuba; The Conversation Continues”, which was recorded during the days diplomatic relationship with Cuba were being re-established, is a magnificent album. The other nominees are certainly lesser known. This speaks about how far right in the long tail we’ve gone here.
Great List of Good Latin Music
As I always point out, regardless of who are the winners of the Latin Grammy, the nominees make a great list of music that you can check out. Additionally, streaming services provide music fans the opportunity to enjoy most of this great music for one monthly price.