16 October 2008

If your music's not black you're not coming in

Apparently Leona Lewis has been booed at the MOBO awards for not having bothered to show up to collect her prizes for best album and video. A little harsh I thought, but I suppose not attending does make it look like the award doesn't mean very much to you. Saying 'I'm there in spirit with you all' by pre-recorded video message also sounds a bit fake and sappy too (so at least in keeping with Leona's personality, she's so milky you could whiten your tea with her).

It did get me thinking though, as I always do when these awards roll around again, what is the actual point of them? Why do they single out music of black origin for particular recognition, and why are they defining music by skin colour at all?

Yes I realise that they say you don't have to be black to win a MOBO, it's not the colour of the performer they're describing but the origin of the music, and a few non-black people win things from time to time like Amy Winehouse winning best female or best drug addict or whatever it was. But it still seems bizarre to me and I'm yet to find a satisfactory justification for them.

Are they saying music of black origin is under-represented in awards so needs its own special ceremony? I doubt it - the charts are stuffed full of succesful rappers and R&B singers and hip hop stars who win all sorts of things. In fact loads of our best music today could be described as 'of black origin'.

Are they saying black music is all the same and can be judged as a single category? Again, probably not. And if not, why lump all music of black origin together in the first place? Does it even go together? It seems a rather too broad category that contains a very diverse range of music.

And I don't think you could get away with a Music Of White Origin award, it would sound like a White Power event. I think it would probably be a fairly crappy evening too, unless you particularly like country and folk music to the exclusion of all others.

It seems to me that it just perpetuates divisions along racial lines for no real benefit. How are you supposed to get passed race if you never shut up about it?
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