... or, as I call it, the final victory of kindie.
Last month, the nominations for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards were announced, and while I continue to be less than completely convinced of the value of Grammy awards for kids music, there's no doubt that the awards are still considered a Big Deal throughout the recorded music industry, kids' musicians included.
First, let's list the five nominees in the category of Best Children's Album:
Explorer of the World
Frances England Music
Infinity Plus One
Bumblin' Bee Records
Okee Dokee Music
The Grammy Awards will be announced on Sunday, February 12 -- the biggest awards in the evening, the rest of the awards (including this category) that afternoon. And unlike most of the nominees, the kids' nominees take the opportunity to play a benefit concert the Saturday the day before the concert. This year, the concert is on Saturday the 11th, and if you've got kids and live in Los Angeles, it's worth checking out getting tickets. (You can read more about the history here.) I went to last year's concert, and, yeah, it's a good time -- the public is unlikely to get to hear these five artists play together.
The annual Grammy weekend has also become the closest West Coast analogue to KindieFest/Kindiecomm, thanks to an annual industry-only luncheon also held on Saturday the day before the awards ceremonies. This year is no exception (details here), and for those musicians who haven't had a chance to attend either the Grammy-related luncheon or the East Coast gatherings, it's definitely worth considering whether a day or two in the L.A. area might be within your budget.
I've been writing this site for more than 12 years, and when I started, the word "kindie" hadn't even been coined. Yes, artists like Dan Zanes, Laurie Berkner, and Justin Roberts had released multiple albums, and of course artists like Trout Fishing in America, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer and Raffi were walking along the paths Pete Seeger, Ella Jenkins, and others had created.
When I researched the Grammy nominations for the kids music awards (non-spoken word) handed out in February 2004 and February 2005, bookending the start of this site, I was a little surprised to see that it wasn't a collection of Disney retreads -- both years are pretty solid collections of albums from artists familiar to this site.
But I think it's fair to say that those lists come more from a folk-music tradition with some gentle pop thrown in. I think that the Dan Zanes nod in 2005 is the only album that could safely plant both feet in the "kindie" tradition as it's been most popularly understood -- pulling in rock and other musical traditions beyond folk and pop, and not dependent upon music labels for funding and distribution.
This list, on the other hand, while pulling in elements of folk music and pop, feels like its heart comes from indie rock and some hip-hop. At this point Brady Rymer (nominated for multiple Grammys) and the Okee Dokee Brothers (winners and nominated multiple times) seem like Grammy royalty, and only Rymer had released an album before 2005.
And unlike lists of recent years, on which Rymer, the Okee Dokee Brothers, and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo had previously appeared, there was no "exception" this year. No non-kids artist making an album for kids, no spoken-word recitation of a book, no... nothing. Just five artists all easily described as kindie stars, with roughly 35 albums for kids between them. I don't want to say it's the perfect "kindie" list, because that implies a qualitative hierarchical distinction that I'm not trying to make. But I'm not sure I could come up with a list that is... more kindie (as it's currently defined in terminology and example) than this one.
I don't want to say "my work here is done," but I think it's fair to say that one of my goals when I started this site more than a dozen years ago -- raising the visibility of great kids music that drew upon a broad range of musical styles -- has been accomplished. I'm not taking credit for any of it -- that belongs to the artists themselves -- but I think it's time for me to think (again) about how to further expand the visibility of kids audio to an even wider audience, and to think (much more) about how to further expand who creates kids audio to an even wider creator base. Because the two are related, and the two are how when we talk about kids music a dozen years from now, somebody will talk about a Grammy list that builds upon the paths the Okee Dokee Brothers and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo further blazed, but doesn't include them, either.