A coalition of musicians protested Thursday in Los Angeles over a change to Grammy categories that they say hurts ethnic music.
A decision by Grammy organizers to reduce award categories from 109 to 78 cuts the chances for Latin, world music, Cajun/Zydeco and Native American musicians to win awards, the group claims.
An online petition has been circulating to demand reinstatement of these categories.
A group of musicians played Latin songs and hoisted banners reading "Grammys Honor All Music" and "It's Not Just About Rap, Rock or Country" outside Thursday's board meeting of the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which administers the music prize.
Bobby Sanabria, a four-time Grammy nominee in the Latin jazz category and leader of the movement against the changes, said the group hoped to convince a member of the board to raise the issue again before the 2012 awards season, when the changes are slated to take effect.
"Hopefully during that time, someone will rise and be brave enough and do this," Sanabria said.
Alberta pow-wow group Northern Cree has been nominated for six Grammys and its frontman, Steve Wood, said he signed the petition against the changes.
So have most of the acts that share his label, Canyon Records, which represents First Nations artists across North America.
The elimination of the best Native American album category means native artists must compete in an expanded roots music category.
"You don't make this kind of music because you want awards," Wood said. "It's not going to hurt the music itself. Aboriginal music is the oldest music in the world and we're going to go on making it whether we get awards or not."
Still, Wood said he regrets the elimination of the category because the award was an opportunity for younger artists to get mainstream exposure.
Though he enjoyed past experiences at the Grammy gala, Wood says he always found the Grammy definition of native music to be artificial.
"The people who are playing this music and the people who are listening to it, they know what is the best music," he said.
She has maintained there should be more awards at both ceremonies to recognize the diversity of aboriginal music.
Prominent musicians such as Paul Simon and Carlos Santana have also objected to the changes.
"I believe the Grammys have done a disservice to many talented musicians by combining previously distinct and separate types of music into a catch-all of blurry larger categories," Simon wrote in a letter to the academy.
"They deserve the separate Grammy acknowledgements that they've been afforded until this change eliminated them."
Santana and his musician wife, Cindy Blackman Santana, objected to the removal of Latin jazz and other ethnic categories. The couple said the academy is "doing a huge disservice to the brilliant musicians who keep the music vibrant for their fans — new and old."
When the academy announced the changes April 6, president Neil Portnow said the effect would be to make the Grammys more competitive. It was the first comprehensive cull of award categories in the more than 50-year history of the U.S. music awards.