Artist News Awards

Rina Sawayama, Griff and Pa Salieu nominated for BRITs Rising Star award

By | Published on Thursday 11 March 2021

BRITs Rising Star Award 2021 - Rina Sawayama, Griff, Pa Salieu

Rina Sawayama has been announced as one of the nominees for this year’s BRITs Rising Star award – significant because, until two weeks ago, she was not eligible. The other artists up for the prize are Griff and Pa Salieu.

“I literally fell to the floor when I found out that I’d been nominated for Rising Star”, says Sawayama. “I really can’t put into words how much this means to me, given that I wasn’t eligible for this award a few weeks ago and now that door has been opened for future generations of artists like myself. Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me, it means the world”.

Sawayama was not previously eligible for the prize, of course, because under the rules for the awards ceremony she was not considered British. This issue was highlighted when she was not nominated for another awards ceremony run by UK record label trade body the BPI, the Mercury Prize, last year. Rules stated that for artists to be eligible, they had to be able to provide proof of their British citizenship.

This was not something Sawayama could do, as she holds indefinite leave to remain status in the UK, but not full citizenship. Although she has lived almost her entire life in England, Japan – where she was born – does not allow its citizens to hold dual citizenship with other countries. Unwilling to renounce her Japanese citizenship and sever connections with her family who still live in the country, she is unable to become legally British.

In an interview with Vice, following the uproar that she had been overlooked for the Mercury, she said: “I’m signed to a UK label. I’ve lived here uninterrupted for the last 25 years. I’m only tax registered in this country. The … album was recorded in the UK, as well as in LA. It was mixed in the UK. My lyrics are in English, except for one verse in one song … I fundamentally don’t agree with [the Mercurys’] definition of Britishness”.

Subsequent talks with the BPI led to the announcement of a change to the rules for the Mercury Prize and the BRIT Awards last month. Under the new rules, artists will be eligible for the BPI’s British artist awards if they were born in the UK, hold a UK passport, and/or they have been permanently resident in the UK for five years.

Although too late for the Mercury, the rule change did mean that Sawayama was eligible for the BRITs Rising Star Award – however, not the main awards, because of another rule that an artist’s album has to have appeared in the Official Charts Company’s top 75. Although voting for the Rising Star prize had already opened at the point the rule change was announced, the deadline for members of the voting panel to submit their shortlists was last Friday.

Also up for this year’s Rising Star prize are Griff – who was nominated for Ivor Novello Rising Star Award last year – and BBC Sound Of 2021 winner Pa Salieu.

Says Griff of her nomination: “It’s kinda terrifying how many legends have been nominated for this award. I never ever ever expected making beats in my music room after school could eventually lead to a BRIT nomination. Super lame, but I remember after school, catching up on the BRITs and crying watching Stormzy perform. And I don’t think I really knew what that emotion was at the time, but I think it was just an overwhelming sense of aspiration. So to be nominated for a BRIT award three years on is completely surreal!”

Meanwhile, Pa Salieu adds: “I am very grateful to be shortlisted for this BRIT Award. Love and blessings every time! Thanks to everyone supporting my journey so far”.

The overall Rising Star winner for 2021 will be announced on 19 Mar. This year’s BRIT Awards ceremony itself will take place on 11 May.

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