Jazz Fans Protest At MOBO Awards

Jazz musicians and fans staged a protest outside this year’s Music of Black Origin awards because their specialist category was scrubbed from this year’s event.

Trumpeter and vocalist Abram Wilson, who got permission from Metropolitan Police to stage the peaceful demonstration outside the main entrance to the Royal Albert Hall on September 20th, headed a nine-piece band to provide some musical entertainment for the protesters.

The decision to drop the award has caused widespread anger among the jazz fraternity.

Janine Irons from Dune Records, the label for 2003 winner Soweto Kinch, described the decision as “risible and highly offensive” and said it shows the organizers are lacking in knowledge of music generally, and certainly of black music.

“It also comes at a time when the jazz scene is being enriched by a number of artists who are drawing from, and even inspiring, other forms of black music such as hip-hop, R&B and grime, and there is a wealth of great talent out there that deserves to be recognized,” Irons said.

“The MOBO board really does need to be reminded of its mission statement which says it identifies, showcases and celebrates music derived from black heritage.

“Based on this alone, jazz should be high on their agenda but, since inception, MOBO has failed to see jazz as an integral part of its awards program.

“Artistically, the MOBO awards have lost all credibility and, in dropping the award that recognises the genre that has contributed the most to black musical heritage, they deserve every bit of condemnation that’s coming their way.”

This year’s awards were broadcast live on BBC 3 and repeated on BBC 1 the following day. The protesters got at least a slice of the TV time when their action was given coverage on BBC 2’s “Newsnight.”

At press time, it wasn’t possible to get comment from MOBO organizer Kanya King or Natasha Mensah – the awards’ publicist – as both had already left for the ceremony.

The 13 categories in this year’s awards – the 11th time they’ve been held – did include hip-hop, R&B, reggae and gospel.

Beyoncé topped the nominations list by being considered for four categories. Corinne Bailey Rae and Kano both had a chance of taking three awards.

The live performers were scheduled to include Sway, Jamelia, Bailey Rae, and Keisha White.

– John Gammon