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At Least 38 Protestors Killed in Crackdowns Sunday; Hundreds Protest in London Over Police Response to Everard Vigil; Some Countries Halt AstraZeneca Use Over Possible Side Effects; Hong Kong Locks Down More Residents Amid Fear of Fifth COVID-19 Wave; Brazilian Hospitals Overrun by Growing Wave of COVID-19; Conflict Has Taken Toll on Syria's Children; Beyonce Makes History, H.E.R. Wins Song of the Year. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired March 15, 2021 - 00:00   ET


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hi. Welcome to all of our viewers joining us from all around the world. You're watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow.


So just ahead, defiance in Myanmar. Protestors push on, despite a wave of killing.

Grief, anger and rage. How one woman's death in London is sparking a movement.

Plus, the Grammys reimagined for a pandemic. Who came out on top and all the rest.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: Despite condemnations from the U.N. and major world powers, Myanmar's military crackdown on protestors is only getting bloodier and more dangerous.

A human rights group says at least 36 protestors were killed on Sunday, the deadliest day so far since last month's coup.

We're seeing more and more brutal and chaotic scenes like these. Pro- democracy protestors are using homemade shields to protest themselves from teargas and live ammunition.

And the military junta just declared -- declared martial law in two districts of Yangon, Myanmar's largest city. They've carried out raids and arrested people over the weekend.

Despite the crackdowns, the leader of Myanmar's shadow civilian government is urging protestors to keep the momentum going. Take a listen.


MAHN WIN KHAING THAN, ACTING V.P., COMMITTEE FOR REPRESENTING PYIDAUGNGSU HLUTTAW (through translator): This is the darkest moment of the nation, in the moment when the dawn is close. This is the time for our citizens to test their resistance against the dark moments.


CURNOW: Well, Paula Hancocks joins us now with the latest from Seoul.

Hi, Paula. Good to see you. Just give us a sense of the increasing crackdown we're seeing on the streets in Myanmar.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Robyn. There's no doubt about it, that the level of force that security forces are using against protestors is continuing to increase. As you said, well over 30 killed on Sunday.

And this one Burmese NGO who's trying to keep a tally says they believe at least 126 have been killed so far since the February 1 coup. But many activists and protestors that we speak to on the ground says that they believe that the actual number is far higher.

And well over 2,100, they say, as well, have been arrested, charged or sentenced. So we are seeing the level of violence increase, the level of force that these security forces are using. And as that increases, we're also seeing the international condemnation increasing.

We've just seen a tweet from Tom Andrews, who is the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar. And he says, quote, "Junta leaders don't belong in power. They belong behind bars."

There has been condemnation, as well, from the U.K. ambassador in Myanmar. Also, U.S. special envoy on Myanmar saying that she condemns the continuing bloodshed. Also saying that she was personally hearing, quote, "heartbreaking accounts of killings, mistreatment of demonstrators, and tortures -- torture of prisoners over the weekend."

But of course, all this international condemnation so far has fallen on deaf ears. It does not appear to be swaying the military leadership in any shape or form.

CURNOW: No, it doesn't. So the question is what does China then do? Because in many ways, they can bring the most pressure to bear, can't they?

HANCOCKS: That's right. I mean, China has invested into -- into Myanmar and certainly has a vested interest in the country and -- and could be the key to -- to reigning in the military leadership.

They did recently back a U.N. statement condemning what was happening in Myanmar, which was a diplomatic step forward from them. But up until that point, they'd been saying it's an internal matter. And certainly, other countries want China to bring more pressure onto the military leadership.

The protestors blame China in some ways. We saw over the weekend a certain number of Chinese-funded factories were -- were damaged and burned. China has asked the military to make sure that they can protect their interests in the country.

And we've seen protestors repeatedly protesting outside the Chinese embassy in Myanmar, as well, believing that they are supporting the military leadership.

CURNOW: Paula Hancocks, thanks so much keeping us updated on this moving story. Thank you.

So outrage is growing on London at the police response to Saturday's vigil for murder victim Sarah Everard. This was the scene in Parliament Square on Sunday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many more? How many more? How many more?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many more? How many more? How many more?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many more? How many more? How many more?



CURNOW: The crowd there chanting "How many more" to call attention to violence against women. They also chanted, "Shame on you" to denounce the reaction to the vigil for Everard.

Police broke it up on the grounds that it posed coronavirus dangers.

A Metropolitan Police officer has been charged with kidnapping and her murder.

Well, later today, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be leading a special crime task force discussion on how to protect women from harassment and violence.

This murder has reignited conversations about sexual harassment and violence against women and girls. Nino dos Santos has more from London -- Nina.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR (voice-over): They gathered illegally outside the headquarters of the very organization which had stopped them from holding a vigil to express their anger a day earlier.

While there, they moved on to Parliament, taking a message that they had tried to express peacefully in a south London suburb all the way to the makers and enforcers of the country's laws.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people united will never be defeated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people united will never be defeated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people united will never be defeated.

DOS SANTOS: The upswell of indignation started less than two weeks ago after a young woman, Sarah Everard, was allegedly kidnapped while walking home in the dark and later found dead.

The vigil for her highlighting many women's fears for their safety, was aggressively dispersed by officers from the very force that the man charged with her murder served on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shame on you! Shame on you!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shame on you! Shame on you!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shame on you! Shame on you!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We think so many people have been told to keep up appearances and to shut their voices off so that they don't anger people, but without the anger and without talking about it, nothing can change.

DOS SANTOS: The Metropolitan Police say that they haven't wanted to break up the demonstrations but felt the need to protect people from the pandemic, which has left large gatherings banned for much of the past year.

The women who had originally planned Saturday's event said that things could have been different, had the police allowed a safe moment of silence to take place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were going to have COVID marshals. We were going to keep distancing. And we offered the police quite a few alternatives, including staggered times so there wouldn't be a congregation at the same time altogether. But we clearly were forced to cancel, and we saw what happened. And you know, this week of all weeks, they should have understood that women needed a safe place to mourn and show solidarity.

DOS SANTOS: London's mayor called the Met's handling of the vigil completely unacceptable. The home secretary ordered a review.

Scotland Yard's first ever female commissioner says she's not stepping down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I fully understand the strength of feeling. I think, as a woman, and hearing from people about their experiences in the past. Indeed, if it had been lawful, I'd have been there.

DOS SANTOS (on camera): The police's heavy-handed attempt to try and disperse crowds seems only to have prompted more people to come and lay floral tributes and to stand up for women's safety.

Peaceful mourning continues, despite COVID regulations. Yet on Saturday night, this local landmark was the scene of ugly clashes, as officers handcuffed women and pinned them down. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really think that they should have been here in a much more supportive role.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I appreciate so many people coming to pay their respect, and everything. Yet, on the other hand, it's not so good so many gathering during the epidemic and everything.

DOS SANTOS: To the many paying their respects, the emotions were no less raw as the weekend drew to a close.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're all the same age as Sarah. She worked in my company. We live two minutes from here, so I think we're all --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're all feeling very unsafe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it gets brought -- brought to the surface a lot of issues that we may have buried.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that we've all been exposed to, and it's just -- I think we've said we've let a lot of things slip too long, and suddenly, yes, we're feeling less safe than ever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think everyone's angry. There's a lot of feeling that comes to the forefront. But we also need to remember there's a family at the heart of it.

DOS SANTOS: The U.K. Parliament will this week debate new policing and crime legislation further extending powers over protests. Without profound amendments to better protect women, a growing number of parliamentarians have made it clear that the bill is unlikely to pass.

Nina dos Santos, CNN, London.


CURNOW: Last week, a group called U.N. Women released new data showing that a majority of women in the U.K. experienced sexual harassment in public. Seventy-one percent of British women say they've encountered it. The figure jumps to 86 percent of British women between the ages of 18 and 24.

Now get this: according to the data, only 4 percent say they actually reported the harassment to officials.


Italy is imposing new restrictions starting Monday as COVID cases continue to rise, and the entire country will be considered a red zone and will be under lockdown during the upcoming Easter weekend.

Italians enjoyed a final day of open restaurants on Sunday before these new restrictions kicked in. Prime Minister Mario Draghi says the restrictions are necessary because of a new wave of infections.

Last week saw more than 150,000 new coronavirus infections, up nearly 15 percent from the week before.

And the Netherlands and Ireland are joining a growing list of countries pausing the use of AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine after -- after reports of blood clots and other possible side effects. But AstraZeneca says its analysis shows no evidence of an increased risk in vaccine recipients, as Cyril Vanier now reports -- Cyril.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: More than a third of European countries have now partially or fully suspended AstraZeneca vaccinations after a report from the Norwegian health authority of patients developing blood clots after inoculation.

(voice-over): Concerns have been emerging throughout the week. E.U. countries reported three deaths and multiple instances. A 49-year-old woman in Austria died as a result of blood coagulation, and several countries then banned that particular batch of AstraZeneca doses.

Then Denmark went a step further, suspending its entire AstraZeneca rollout for two weeks after a vaccine recipient died of a blood clot. Norway and Iceland immediately followed suit.

It is important to note that those countries acknowledge there's no proof the incidents are connected to the vaccines, but they do want more information.

Meanwhile, a majority of European countries, including Germany, Spain and France, among others, are proceeding with the rollout. AstraZeneca responded the data from more than 10 million vaccine recipients shows "no evidence of increased risk of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis" for any age group, gender or country.

And the European Medicines Agency seems to agree and says that the number of such events in vaccinated people is no higher than in the general population.

(on camera): The EMA is investigating the incidents but advises that, in the meantime, vaccines can continue to be used.

Cyril Vanier, CNN, London.


CURNOW: To Hong Kong now and fears that a fifth wave of the pandemic could be descending on the city. The government has declared 11 residential buildings restricted areas as new cases emerge.

CNN's Will Ripley joins me now live from Hong Kong with more on this.

Hi, Will. What can you tell us?


So this is one of the neighborhoods that was hit with an ambush-style lockdown over the weekend. I actually had one of the buildings across the street from my house locked down, as well, on Saturday night.

And the way it works is that you have a small army, hundreds of healthcare workers, police. They come into your area. They seal off the street. And then they go door to door and tell everybody who lives in the buildings that they need to stay inside their homes, other than to receive a COVID-19 test and then await for the result without leading.

Now, these types of lockdowns have been happening in other parts of Hong Kong, but this one is the first that is actually hitting an area full of foreign expats.

This is all related to an outbreak at a gym very close to where I'm standing here, a fitness center where more than 100 cases have been linked so far.

This gym cluster, called a super-spreader cluster, has now resulted in hundreds of people being sent to mandatory quarantine camps. So not even quarantining at home but actually going to a facility where they have to stay inside a room for 14 days.

There were incidents of young children, some of them even just barely a year old who are having to quarantine in these facilities, as well, with perhaps just one of their parents some have said is a bit traumatic for young children who don't even have a confirmed positive case, just potential exposure.

But this really underscores the seriousness, Robyn, that health authorities place on trying to get ahead of this potential fifth wave of COVID-19. The vaccine roll-out here has been relatively slow. The number of cases have been ticking back up, and this is just weeks after things here in Hong Kong had started to reopen after life was starting to get back to normal, Robyn.

CURNOW: OK. Thanks for that update there. Will Ripley in Hong Kong. Thank you.

So still ahead on CNN, COVID cases in Brazil are not only rising, they are surging at record speed. And hospitals really are struggling to keep up. We have details in a report from Sao Paulo. You want to stick around for that.

Also, a little later on this hour, Beyonce makes history at the Grammys. More on the record she set and some of the other big headlines from music's biggest night.



CURNOW: Brazil's coronavirus outbreak is surging to new and terrifying heights. This past week, the country averaged more than 66,000 new cases a day, and it passed India for the second highest total in the world, almost 11 and a half million infections overall.

As these cases keep on rising, more ICUs are approaching capacity, as Matt Rivers reports -- Matt.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Pamela Revipi (ph) can only look at the photos of her grandmother. She says watching the videos is too painful.

"The world didn't deserve my Grandma," she says. "She was too good."

Admitted March 3 with COVID at this small hospital outside Sao Paulo, she died just two days later. The facility quickly overrun by a new wave of COVID-19.


RIVERS: This doctor, who works there, says, "We think about the families that are suffering, and we can't sleep. It is unbelievable."

(on camera): This hospital just doesn't have the facilities to care for those who are really sick. Those patients would usually get transferred somewhere else. But right now, there's nowhere else to go. So instead of getting transferred, they're dying.

(voice-over): In just five days last week, 12 patients died waiting for an open bed somewhere else, according to hospital officials. Pamela's grandmother was one of them. She thinks that she would have survived if treated in an ICUs.

But right now, access to those facilities is nearly impossible. Albert Einstein Hospital is one of Brazil's best, but here, too, the rooms are full. They are scrambling to build more ICU beds, because the patients just keep coming.

DR. FARAH CHRISTINA DE LA CRUZ SCARIN, ALBERT EINSTEIN HOSPITAL: It's very much busiest time we have ever been in this last year.

RIVERS: We first saw hints of this about six weeks ago when we reported from Manaus, a city in Brazil's Amazon rainforest. Hospitals there were overwhelmed amidst a new outbreak, and the city was forced to build so-called vertical graves.

And from then to now, that chaos has spread nationwide. In 22 of 26 Brazilian states, ICU capacity is at or above 80 percent, government data shows. In Sao Paulo, it's 90 percent and climbing, and when you run out of beds, doctors tell us, people die.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The coffin is closed, so the family doesn't have the opportunity to say goodbye.

RIVERS: The number of such coffins is surging at the Sao Paulo public cemetery. From above, you can see the thousands of newly-dug graves.

(on camera): The number of burials like the one going on behind me have been staggering recently. Since the pandemic began, the three single days were Sao Paulo has recorded the most coronavirus deaths have come in just the last week. (voice-over): Experts say the causes of the new surge are myriad. A more transmissible variant, few vaccines, relaxed lockdowns and government mismanagement all playing varying roles. But no matter the cause, these are the effects.

Outside this public hospital, every day between three and five p.m., family members of COVID patients inside wait to hear their names. They go in to get news on conditions, and often, it's not good. And then comes the grief and the tears, wrought from a pandemic that just won't end.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Sao Paulo, Brazil.


CURNOW: Joining me now from Sao Paulo, Brazil, is Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, a professor of neurobiology at Duke University.

Doctor, thank you very much for joining us. It really does seem like Brazil is in the midst of this devastating crisis, where we're seeing cemeteries and ICUs filling up, overflowing day by day.

DR. MIGUEL NICOLELIS, PROFESSOR OF NEUROBIOLOGY, DUKE UNIVERSITY: Absolutely. Tomorrow, we will have the beginning of the worst week for sure in the pandemic during this year, of the pandemic in Brazil.

We are -- we are bracing ourselves for, you know, the record after record of deaths per day. And we are really not sure when to expect any change in this horrible scenario right now.

CURNOW: Why is it so bad right now?

NICOLELIS: Well, basically because the federal government since the beginning didn't do anything they were supposed to be done, you know, to fight a pandemic of this severity and gravity. The president of Brazil never really took responsibility, and in Brazil, we have a national system that is, you know, one of the best in the world. But we never got the guidance and the funds and the strategic planning that the country needed to fight such a horrible pandemic.

CURNOW: I know you were deeply involved in running a task force for a big proportion of the country. How overwhelming has it been, particularly when you're trying to scenario plan?

NICOLELIS: Well, what's the most challenging scientific task I ever had in my 40-year career. I never imagined to be, you know, part of a war zone. That's how I can describe to you. We had to make assessments and come up with recommendations day by day. And coronavirus (ph), we had to deliver recommendations to nine governors, and they couldn't count on any help from the federal government.

And yet, I'm very proud to say that, because of this effort, I think the northeast region of Brazil had some of the best epidemiological results in the five regions of the country, because the governors believed in science and helped us to build a very significant scientific task force. CURNOW: You talk about failures of the federal government. You also talk about, clearly, people struggling day by day with this disease. But how much is also this new variant, P.1 as it's called or the Brazilian variant, playing into this. Particularly because it just seems so aggressive. and so many young people are turning up breathless and very, very ill.

NICOLELIS: Well, this is the latest component of the Brazilian tragedy, something that we are just seeing materializing right now. We have -- you know, the new cases there reaching the ICU beds. We are seeing a dramatic shift in the age group that is taking the ICU beds right now from, you know, above 60, 65, down to 30 to 45.

This is a more recent trend. We have another variant that has just been identified the last two days down here in Brazil. This is news that came up early today, showing that as I mentioned last week, Brazil is probably right now the largest open sky laboratory for the coronavirus to mutate and for new variants to emerge.

And this trend is about to continue. So we have problems before the variant. And in fact, as we speak, the whole health system, the whole hospital system in Brazil may be collapsing in a matter of hours.

CURNOW: You're painting a devastating, hellish picture here. What can be done?

NICOLELIS: Well, first of all -- well, first of all, we need, in Brazil, a central command. We need a national task force headed by the Congress, the governors, the Supreme Court, together with the scientific community, to take over the managing of the crisis. That, for me, is paramount.

Second, we need to upgrade the number of people vaccinated per day tenfold. We need to go from two, three hundred thousand a day to two, three million a day. Like what is happening in the U.S. right now.

And of course, we need a national lockdown. I cannot see us breaking down the transmission rates that we have skyrocketing right now without a national lockdown. Because, as I said, as we speak, all five regions of the country are crossing the threshold of ICU collapse.


We don't have ICU beds left. You know, this is a country that has more hospitals than the United States. Yet, we are reaching a point in which people are going to die on the emergency rooms or on the streets.

So we need a national lockdown. We need it.

CURNOW: Sending thoughts and prayers to you all there in Brazil. Doctor, thank you for all the work that you have been doing. Thank you very much, also, for joining us. I know that you're very busy. Thank you.

NICOLELIS: I appreciate it. Thank you. CURNOW: So coming up on CNN, ten long years of war with no end in sight. A closer look at the devastation and the human toll in Syria. That's next.


CURNOW: Welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow. It's 28 minutes past the hour. Thanks for watching.

So ten years ago, a series of peaceful, pro-democracy protests against Syrian President Bashir al-Assad turned into a civil war that continues today. Pope Francis called it one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time on Sunday and appealed for a sliver of hope for the devastated country.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated around 600,000 people have been killed in the war. The U.N. says more than five and a half million have fled, and more than six million are internally displaced.

The U.N. secretary-general says Syria may not be capturing as much of the world's attention, but that doesn't mean the suffering has ended.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: After a decade of conflict, in the middle of a global pandemic, and faced with a steady stream of new crises, Syria has fallen off the front page. And yet, the situation remains a living nightmare.


CURNOW: Nowhere is the crushing goal of war more heartbreaking than on Syria's children. Many have known nothing but war for their entire lives, their childhood scarred by fear, loss and trauma, as Arwa Damon now reports.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "What do I do? Use a bucket of water, a blanket? I tried using my hands like this to put out the flames. I couldn't. My son's body was a ball of fire."

Sultan was playing on his bike when a rocket blew up fuel cannisters nearby.



GRAPHIC: My belly was on fire. My belly looked like all the flesh came out of it. My belly and my back.

DAMON: An ambulance brought Sultan to Turkey. He and his mother have been there ever since. This is the last photo of Sultan before the airstrike.

"Now you are not ugly. You are beautiful," Amar constantly tells him.

Sultan has an utterly disarming smile with eyes that fluctuate between sparkling like a 10-year-old's should but at times darkened as his past sets in.


DAMON (on camera): He has these nightmares where he's on fire. His whole body's on fire. Even his eyes are on fire. He wakes up screaming, screaming for his mother to put out the flames.

(voice-over): Sultan is as old as Syria's war itself, a life that carries the emotional and physical scars of a nation. When he was 5, his baby brother was killed in a bombing.


GRAPHIC: The neighbors removed the glass. They pulled him out. His neck was slit.

DAMON: When Sultan was 6, his father died in a strike on the market.


GRAPHIC: I saw so many children die in front of me. I couldn't save even one.

DAMON: This is where sultan was born into unimaginable violence, where he lost so much. A gray, dusty town of smothered childhood laughter stolen by war.

Renad's family did not know that mines were daisy-chained along the wall of their home. Her grandfather shows us where the first one went off.

(on camera): She was standing at the door with her siblings and then, all of a sudden, there was an explosion from a mine right there.

(voice-over): She lost her left leg under the knee.

(on camera): She has a prosthetic now.

(voice-over): She says her father disappeared a decade ago at the start of Syria's war. She tells us he was blindfolded, and she was thrown to the ground in a forest.


GRAPHIC: There were people passing by who heard me crying.

DAMON: It's the longest sentence she speaks. Mostly, she gives one- word answers or falls silent. Her grandfather says she feels like she's just gone blank. She doesn't dream of a life without war, because she can't even imagine it. It's been over a year since we were last year, covering Russia and the Syrian regimes most intense assault on what remained of rebel-held territory. There's been a ceasefire in place since then that has been, relatively speaking, holding.

COVID-19 peaked here late last year. Now ICU beds are mostly empty.

(on camera): It's all sandbagged underneath here, just in case there's more bombing that resumes.

(voice-over): This is a pediatric hospital, one of the few that remains intact. Zion (ph) is two and a half months old and severely underweight.

(on camera): They've seen a three-fold increase in malnutrition cases in this clinic alone, for a number of reasons.

(voice-over): Years of bombings and displacement leading to greater poverty and then further fueled by COVID-19 border closures and humanitarian aid slowing down.

We pass ramshackle camps. With each bombardment, more of them blotted the countryside. A decade, for so many a lifetime of compounded trauma.

The past permeates everything. For most, there's not a month, a week that goes by that isn't the anniversary of the death of someone they loved.

Perhaps all that is left to save are the shreds of innocence of a scarred generation.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Idlib, Syria.




CURNOW: It was a star-studded night t this year's Grammy awards. A bit different, of course, due to the pandemic but still featuring a few live performances, acceptance speeches and some history being made.

Beyonce broke the record for all-time wins by a woman and any singer, male or female, with 28 Grammys. Dua Lipa took the award for Best Pop Vocal Album for "Future Nostalgia." She also performed on the show, singing her hit, "Levitating."




CURNOW: And "The Daily Show's" Trevor Noah hosted the event. There was a big emphasis on diversity and race, with this song winning Song of the Year for "I Can't Breathe."


TREVOR NOAH, HOST, GRAMMY AWARDS: And the Grammy goes to "I Can't Breathe," H.E.R.

H.E.R., WINNER, SONG OF THE YEAR: We are the change that we wish to see. And you know, that -- that fight that we had in us the summer of 2020, keep that same energy. Thank you.


CURNOW: Joining me now from Los Angeles, Segun Oduolowu, host of the syndicated news magazine, the television show "The List."

Lovely to see you. So hi. I want to talk all about the Grammys and the music and the show. It's so nice to talk about a show, isn't it? We haven't had one. How did it go down? Fun, enjoyable, despite the format? Or because of the format?

SEGUN ODUOLOWU, HOSTS, "THE LIST": I love -- I loved it, Robyn, because of the format. You know, this was the first Grammy show that I can remember watching all the way through, loving the performances. Heavy on the performances, less on the awards.

And let's remember that art is subjective. It's inherently biased. If you like rock 'n' roll, you might not like hip-hop, and if you like hip-hop, you might not like country. So awards in themselves is antiquated. But good music, great performances, that's key.

I have the fortune of talking through this series called "Legendary Talks" given by the Arcade on Clubhouse with Monique Blake, a talent agent and manager for Swizz Beatz, the super producer, who created "Verzuz" with Timbaland. And music is so a part of our -- just our blood, our lives, that the way it's disseminated, it's to be enjoyed.

When you start rating it and saying this song is better than that song, we lose that ability, especially in a time of COVID, to enjoy ourselves with the music.

These Grammys allowed us to enjoy ourselves with the performances. I mean, Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B performing "WAP" on the Grammy stage? I mean, come on. This was -- this was what music is supposed to be. Fun, entertaining and very relaxed, very chill, very watchable.

CURNOW: But at the same time, we also saw a thread of social justice throughout this. And after the year that we've seen in the States, I mean, I think that's a good thing, isn't it? It reflected what happened in America.

So "I Can't Breathe."

ODUOLOWU: It's a necessary thing.

CURNOW: Absolutely. "I Can't Breathe" was Song of the Year, which of course, referenced the death of George Floyd. There was also DaBaby's performance, "Rockstar." I want you to take a look at this and talk about it afterwards.




CURNOW: Was this the performance of the night? Or perhaps the most impactful?


ODUOLOWU: I loved it, but for me, I would raise you from DaBaby to Lil Baby. I thought Lil Baby's performance, in the Streets of L.A. with actual, you know, depiction of a cop shooting, for me that was the performance of the night. Because it brought home what the people were feeling during the Black Lives Matter protests, during you know, the atrocity of seeing someone, you know, kneeled on until their life expired. I think that encapsulated the rage, the horror, the hope that people feel things will change.

And you saw it. Look, Trevor Noah, you know, mixed-race foreigner hosting the awards. You saw people of color. You saw foreign language performances. You saw Beyonce break a record. And then her billionaire husband helping her up the stage.

You saw Megan Thee Stallion, again, commenting on how she had seen Beyonce perform at the Rodeo and wanting to be her.

Like, all of these elements added to a show that was entirely watchable, but more importantly, it hit home where a young girl can say, I want to be her and write a song in my -- in my room and play it for my father. And that's how impactful music can be.

CURNOW: I do want to ask, though. Even though this did seem very powerful on so many levels, there had been some criticism beforehand that the Grammys had a diversity problem. So how does that then compare with the buzz around Oscar nominations tomorrow, around certain films and actors?

ODUOLOWU: So here's the dichotomy. In the history of the Grammys, there have only been ten African-Americans to win album of the year. In the entire history, right? People like Prince have been snubbed. And you know, I mean, Kendrick Lamar won a Peabody and a Pulitzer in 2017 and didn't win Album of the Year.

So this should let us know that the Grammys, for all of its showmanship this year, has a long history of snubbing African-American women, African-American men on the different genres of popular African-American music. We've seen that numerous times.

The Oscars are facing that hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. But what has grown from that are your streaming services like your Netflix, like your Amazons, that are now counter-culture to the big studios and are trying to make sure there's more representation. "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" was on Netflix. "Coming 2 America," which isn't nominated, was on Amazon. With the more outlets that you can have, with the more diversity you can bring in, because let's be honest. The big studios are ignoring diversity, and that's a problem.

You know, it's not until 2022 that you'll see the first gay rom com, called "Bros," you know, by Universal. Why did it take so long, when the majority of people want to see themselves especially represented and seeing themselves in film.

CURNOW: Segun Oduolowu, thank you very much for joining us. Really great to have your perspective. And I'm glad we all had a little of fun tonight. We needed it, didn't we?

ODUOLOWU: Thank you, Robyn. It was good to sit back and listen to some great music.

CURNOW: Absolutely. See you soon.

ODUOLOWU: All right. Stay savvy (ph).

CURNOW: Thanks to you all for watching. I'm Robyn Curnow. I will be back, though, in 15 minutes' time with more news. And I hand you over to the lovely folks at WORLD SPORT.






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