Navajo Singer Radmilla Cody: Grammys-Bound and Grateful
Navajo recording artist Radmilla Cody, a former Miss Navajo Nation, is nominated for a Grammy Award in the Regional Roots Album category for Shi Kéyah — Songs For The People, a disc she made with her uncle Herman Cody and released on Canyon Records. Radmilla is the first Native American artist to be recognized in the catch-all rubric that was created two years ago when the Recording Academy decided to discontinue the Native American Album category. (The Regional Roots Album category has not been totally free of indigenous sounds, as Hawaiian music albums received nominations in both years.)
For Cody, the chance to win a Grammy is undoubtedly a highlight of her career, but even if she doesn't come home with the hardware she will have made her presence known at the gala event. She will join several other nominees as a presenter at the Pre-Telecast Ceremony, which takes place on Sunday, February 10, from 1 to 3:30 PM Pacific (4 to 6:30 PM Eastern). That event wil be hosted by David Alan Grier (nominated for Best Musical Theater Album for The Gershwins' Porgy And Bess) and Cody's presenting colleagues include Janis Ian (Best Spoken Word Album for Society's Child: My Autobiography), Kaskade (Best Dance/Electronica Album for Fire & Ice), Britt Nicole (Best Contemporary Christian Music Album for Gold) and Manuel Valera (Best Latin Jazz Album, for Manuel Valera New Cuban Express' New Cuban Express). The ceremony will be streamed live internationally at GRAMMY.com/live and CBS.com.
En route to California for the big weekend, Cody took a few moments to share her thoughts with ICTMN.
When you were recording Shi Kéyah — Songs For The People, did you have any inkling it might be something that received such acclaim and approval?
No, I had no idea. Starting out, my hope as always was that this album would be well accepted and received by the Dine’ Nation. So the fact that it has been acknowledged by the Recording Academy is even more of a blessing.
Were you aware of the recent changes in the Grammy categories? What do you think when you heard about them?
Yes, I was aware, and it was disappointing to hear about the Native American category being removed along with so many others, because each category includes a broad range of musical expression. However, as always I like to look for the positive in every situation, and see this as a breakthrough. I believe it raises the profile of Native musicians and widens our audience. Now, we Native musicians are being recognized and are sharing equal status with other prominent genres.
You collaborated with your uncle on this album, as you've done in the past. Can you talk about what he means to you and the nature of that collaboration?
My Uncle Herman Cody is a compassionate and determined man with great knowledge of the Dine’ (Navajo) language, culture, and history. Dr. Herman Cody is the composer of a majority of the songs that I sing and we share the common interest in preserving the Dine’ language through our music. We have worked together for the past 13 years.
Speaking of family, you lost your grandmother recently, and when you heard of the nomination you mentioned her on your Facebook page — what sort of influence did she have on you as an artist and on your career?
My grandmother Dorothy was and always will be the foundation of who I am as a Dine’ (Navajo)/ Nahilii (Black) women. Her influence in my life has played a significant role in my perspective in life as well as my accomplishments. I love her, miss her dearly, and will continue to honor her and carry on her legacy.
What will you be wearing for the big event?
I will be wearing my grandmother’s handmade moccasins along with a lovely traditional Dine’ dress created by my Aunt Thelma Shonnie of Shima E’e’ Creations, and beautiful turquoise jewelry from Powwow Trading Post of Flagstaff, Arizona.
What sort of philanthropic work are you doing these days?
I continue to give back in as many ways as I can. As a survivorof and advocate against domestic abuse and violence I continue to support community efforts through my teen dating violence campaign, “Strong Spirit...Life is Beautiful not Abusive.” I’ve also lent my voice to issues concerning our environment, sacred sites, and political issues such as the Violence Against Women Act.