The 55th Grammy Awards

09 February, 2013

From VOA Learning English, welcome to AS IT IS! … your daily magazine show in Special English. 

I’m June Simms.
Today we hear the story of a 16 year old Ugandan girl who has become an international chess champion.

We also play music from one of the world’s best-selling jazz musicians. And we hear from some of the artists being honored at the 55th Grammy Awards.

Musicians from around the world have gathered in Los Angeles, California. As Jim Tedder reports, the Grammy Awards take place this Sunday.

The event will recognize performers, producers, recording engineers, and other people who work in the music business. 

This year, there are three new award categories.  They are:  Best Urban Contemporary Album, Best Latin Jazz Album, and Best Classical Compendium.  Singer songwriter Frank Ocean has been nominated for six awards.

One of the six songs nominated for record of the year is from the group “Fun.”  Here is lead singer Janelle Monae with “We Are Young.”

The Album of the Year award may go to Frank Ocean, Fun, Mumford and Sons, The Black Keys, or Jack White.  

The five nominees for Song of the Year are “The A Team,”  “Adorn,”  “Call Me Maybe,”  “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You), and “We are Young.”

Who will win the award for best new artist?  It may be Fun, Alabama Shakes, Hunter Hayes, Frank Ocean …or the folk-rock group …the Lumineers.

The Lumineers …with “Ho Hey.”  Their first album is also competing for Best Americana Album.  The Lumineers and many other artists will perform this Sunday during the Grammy ceremony.  To see a complete list of possible winners, visit

You are listening to “As It Is” in VOA Special English. I’m June Simms. 
Trumpet player Chris Botti has also been nominated for a Grammy this year. As Faith Lapidus reports, some top musical talent joins him on his latest album.
Chris Botti is currently the best-selling jazz musician in the world. He also has gained recognition for being a fine classical musician.
His latest album, Impressions, has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category. Chris Botti is known as a generous musician. He often invites other musicians to perform with him. Here he is with guitarist Leonardo Amuedo performing “Over The Rainbow".  

Country singer Vince Gill performs on Chris Botti’s version of “Losing You,” a song by Randy Newman. 

Surprisingly, Chris Botti's first musical instrument was not the trumpet. He learned to play piano from his mother, a part-time piano teacher. As a student he performed in jazz clubs around the city of Portland, Oregon where he was born. 

The trumpeter and his seven-piece band spent much of the past year traveling and performing. Other musicians on Impressions include Andrea Bocelli, Mark Knopfler and jazzman Herbie Hancock. Here he plays George and Ira Gershwin’s “Summertime.” He teamed up with David Foster on the song.

The Katwe area of Kampala, Uganda can be a difficult place to live. It is often flooded. Untreated waste can be found on the street. And, people compete with rats and other animals for survival. But, Katwe is also home to one of the world’s most unlikely champions. It is where 16 year old Phiona Mutesi first saw a chess board.

The international chess champion started playing the game when she was nine years old. She had heard about a Christian group that was teaching chess to slum children. But, she only went to the class because she knew the group was serving food. 

“We were evicted out of our house because we couldn’t afford that money. So when I heard that, I was like, ‘maybe I can also get there to know about chess and then I get a cup of porridge’, because I was hungry [at] that time.”
She is now considered the best female player in Uganda. She began representing the country in international tournaments, and has competed two times in the International Chess Olympiad. 

Robert Katende directs the Katwe chess program. He says there is something about slum life that makes children like Phiona good at the game.

“I very much believe that having gone through all they go through right from childhood, figuring out how to survive on a daily basis, they do easily identify themselves with the board, which I think somehow makes them understand it better.”

Last year, she was named Candidate Master, the lowest-ranking position in the World Chess Federation. But it is an important first step for Phiona to becoming a Grandmaster.

And that’s AS IT IS for today. Thanks for listening. I’m June Simms.