Rina Sawayama Reveals Mercury Prize and BRIT Awards Nationality Requirements Have Changed

The Japanese-British singer had previously been ineligible for the awards

rina sawayama brit awards mercury prize eligibility rules changed
Rina Sawayama, photo via artist’s Facebook

    Last July, Japanese-British singer Rina Sawayama revealed she was ineligible to win a Mercury Prize or BRIT Award for her critically acclaimed album, SAWAYAMA, due to an archaic nationality requirement. She’d lived in the UK since she was a toddler, but because she lacked a British passport, she wasn’t up for awards consideration. Today, our former Artist of the Month revealed the eligibility rules have changed.

    “I’m over the moon to share the news that following a number of conversations the BPI [British Phonographic Industry] has decided to change the rules of eligibility for all nominees for the BRIT awards and Mercury Prize,” she wrote on Twitter. “Starting this year, artists (like me) will be eligible for nomination even without British citizenship. The rules have broadened to include those who have been a resident of the UK for 5 years.”

    She continued by thanking fans for their support. “Without your collective voice this wouldn’t have happened,” Sawayama added. “In my 26th year of living in the UK I’m so proud that I can help make this systemic change for future generations, so that in years to come we can see a more diverse definition of British musical excellence. The idea that my music can be a part of that is unbelievably exciting. I want to thank Zing Tsjeng for sharing my story and the BPI and Ged Doherty for having these conversations with me.”


    In an interview with VICE published last summer, Sawayama revealed the BPI (the British equivalent of the Recording Academy) didn’t consider her legally British because she was never issued a British passport. The rising pop singer continued by explaining that applying for one would mean giving up her Japanese passport, since her birth country doesn’t allow for dual citizenship.

    “The concept of Britishness has been in the public discourse in the most negative way possible — it has become very, very narrow in these last five to six years. I think the arts are somewhere that they can reverse that and widen it up,” she said at the time. “It’s up to the award bodies to decide what Britishness really encompasses — the very things that they celebrate, which is diversity and opportunity.”

    Today, the BPI made one small step toward addressing the larger issue. Read Sawayama’s full statement below.

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