by Ralph Yingling, KVBA President
Over the years, one of the things that makes folks scratch their heads has been the notion of a BMA nominee/winner (formerly called a WC Handy nominee/winner – which caused a like amount of confusion). What is a BMA and what makes it so special? I will attempt to clear up some of that in a few paragraphs…
A BMA (Blues Music Award) is to the blues industry what a Grammy is to the larger music industry. The BMA attempts to recognize the “best of the best” in a number of categories of blues music (27 categories that include acoustic, instrumentalists, best new artist, performer of the year, etc.) which are selected by a panel of nominators. The nominators are carefully-screened blues experts, consisting of blues radio programmers, print media representatives, retailers, educators, photographers, festival presenters, talent buyers, and other blues aficionados who attend many live performances and actively listen to the majority of blues recordings issued in any given year. The nominators are chosen from the Blues Foundation’s membership, with a focus on geographical balance and extent of involvement within the blues genre. Most are from the United States, but there are also nominators from Canada, Europe and Central America.
The process includes a 2-stage nominating round, making sure that the nominee is in the correct category and making sure that nominators don’t have a conflict of interest, with nominators selecting up to 3 nominees in each category. At the end of the process, the top 5 nominees in each category appear on a final ballot which is made available online in mid-December. Voting by the Blues Foundation’s 4,000-strong membership begins then, and continues to March 1. The winners are chosen by people who are active blues fans from all over the world.
In May the awards show is held in Memphis. Artistically, it is the premier blues music event in the world. It is the one and only national, even international, blues music awards show. The primary goals are, like any other awards show, to honor the best of the past year and focus public attention on the art form.
At this year’s Kalamazoo Blues Festival you will have several BMA nominees, including: The Cash Box Kings; Royal Southern Brotherhood; Anthony Geraci, Monster Mike Welch, and Michael “Mudcat” Ward (all three from Sugar Ray and the Bluetones); Karen Lovely, and Sugar Ray and The Bluetones. It’s an impressive line-up, and one of the many things that promises that the 23rd Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival is going to be a GREAT show!!