Organized and promoted by Guyanese, the West Indian Music Awards (WIMA) was held a week ago in Jamaica, New York. Several individuals were recognized in various categories for their contributions to the music industry. The WIMA was founded and instituted by Guyanese to recognize the best in musical entertainment, including music DVDs and song and dance TV programmes.
These music awards were long overdue. Kali, friends and I talked about holding recognition awards for entertainment and community work for years. We are pleased that Dheeraj Gayaram initiated the awards four years ago. Years before that, Guyanese journalist, Annan Boodram, started a recognition programme for Indo-Caribbeans who distinguished themselves in various fields of endeavour. Inaugurated some 15 years ago, VS Naipaul, Dr Jagan, Jaggarnath Lachman, among others, were honoured.
Unfortunately, funding was not forthcoming and the awards programme was discontinued. Other groups have their own music, film, ethnic and community recognition awards banquet – Latinos, African Americans, Jamaicans and Afro-Caribbeans have the soca music award, soul music award, rap music award, etc. So it is only fitting that West Indians have their own recognition inclusive of all ethnic groups that constitute the region.
This is the first West Indian music award function for West Indians and is open to all ethnic groups from the region and its diaspora. And it is truly inclusive in that artistes from all ethnic groups are honoured.
People of diverse ethnic backgrounds won awards, including Jamaicans, Trinis, Guyanese, New Yorkers, etc. It is totally dedicated to the music entertainment industry including TV programmes that are geared to a West Indian audience.
The awards honour vocalists, instrumentalists, composers, curators, etc. The event honours both artistic and technical excellence of professionals in English, Hindi, and West Indian singing. The organizing committee was applauded for their work by speakers and community leaders.
The WIMA award ceremony is an attempt to appreciate the works of people from radio, TV and CD recording backgrounds, and the objective is to encourage music and singing talent among West Indians. Nominees in various categories have been determined by a panel from the music entertainment industry – broadcasters, deejays, listeners, stores, etc. The winners are judged on the basis of their record sales, airplay, listening audience, and popularity of the songs, music, and artiste.
The WIMA was started by Guyanese Dheeraj Gayaram. Dheeraj, as he likes to be called, said he was motivated to start the awards because West Indians have been making a lot of contributions in the entertainment industry in the Caribbean and the diaspora and they have not been recognized for their hard work.
And he was given a lot of encouragement by Kali and others. Dheeraj said: “I saw a need to honour people in their own talent departments and so I started WIMA. Some 12 categories for the award of musical entertainment were established. We normally gave out one or two lifetime achievement awards for individuals who made outstanding contributions in the field of entertainment. This year, we gave out four lifetime achievement awards because it is the last award in New York.”
Dheeraj said he does not nominate or select the winners. Nominations for the various categories and the voting take place online. He said: “There is one vote per IP address. The lifetime achievement winners are chosen by a committee that he heads. He noted that legendary singers, musicians, lyricists, producers, directors, etc, are often chosen for recognition and people are chosen across ethnicities.
The presentation of awards was interspersed with singing and dancing. The Ghungaroo dance troupe, trained by Dheeraj, entertained the audience with classical, Bollywood film and hot Indo-Caribbean chutney dances. Several individuals sang Bollywood hits and their own creative songs as well as reggae, calypso, soca and chutney hits.
Dheeraj said this would be the last award ceremony in New York for a long time. He noted that the ceremony will travel to different locations outside the US including Trinidad, Guyana, and Toronto.
Several prominent Guyanese, including Joyce Urmilla Harris, Terry Gajraj and Mr Ramesh Kalicharran were among those recognized for their lifetime contributions to music.
They enthusiastically supported the WIMA awards. As Kali said, songs and music are an integral part of our lives and we need to recognize the artistes for their contributions to our culture. Dheeraj must be applauded for his work in promoting Guyanese Indian culture in the diaspora.