‘Bigger than age, gender’: Analyst says Koffee’s Grammy win is a call to refine Jamaican music genres

Koffee’s Grammy win is symbolic for several reasons.

Of course, it marks the first time a Jamaican female has won in the best reggae album category, and then there is the age factor.

At 19, she is the youngest solo Jamaican nominee and winner – ever. But then there is the ‘Eureka moment’ that the Jamaican music genre library needs to be updated and refined.

Ethnomusicologist Dr Dennis Howard points out that Koffee’s Rapture album, and music, aren’t reggae, but instead one beat, a term he coined more than a decade ago to represent the new genre on Kingston’s music scene that is heavily 808-based, and quite frankly, genreless – much like Koffee’s offerings.

“As some persons have said before, she could have easily been in another category because of the departure from classic reggae and the fact that we are developing new genres so it’s a clash of two different systems,” Howard told BUZZ.

“The Grammy sees most of what we do as reggae anyhow and so if we don’t define our music and label it we’re gonna have these controversies but I think she is deserving of the recognition no matter what the category is because she is the standard-bearer when it comes to quality production, songwriting and basic talent so congratulations to her.”

Koffee went up against repeat Grammy nominees (some winners) Third World, Julian Marley, Sly and Robbie with Roots Radics and Steel Pulse. Howard is not surprised the Raggamuffin singer won.

“I expected her to win, she’s fresh and is the most popular person right now, despite the fact that I would consider her album one beat. It goes to show that if you don’t take care of your assets and label them properly and identify your intellectual property others will do whatever they want with it. We just have to applaud the talent we have now.”

Apart from Izy’s bomb beats and her cool flows, Koffee also has the backing of Columbia Records UK, to which she signed in 2018. Howard said a powerhouse label doesn’t hurt when it comes to the Grammy convo.

“We are now realising that the Grammys is about politics so whoever has the power behind them will influence the decision-makers and having a major label behind you always helps when it comes to the Grammys but the work speaks for itself.”

With the ceremony out of the way, Howard hopes music lovers will understand that the trophy is an American award, and encourages the formation of a “proper award system” in Jamaica.

“A lot of people believe that the Grammys is a Jamaican phenomenon, it is not, it is the American award,” he said. “Similarly, like how they have these awards for other countries like in the United Kingdom, we need to now establish a proper award system for ourselves and have the various categories, new and old, to honour the people.”