British-Japanese pop star Rina Sawayama 'ineligible' for Mercury prize

theguardian.com -- Jul 30
The British-Japanese pop star Rina Sawayama has expressed her frustration that her debut album was ineligible for this year’s Mercury prize because she does not hold a British passport, Vice reports.

Sawayama, 29, has lived in the UK for 25 years and holds indefinite leave to remain. Since Japan prohibits holding dual nationality, she has retained her Japanese passport in order to feel close to her family, who live in her country of birth.

Mercury organising body the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) stipulates that solo artists must have British or Irish nationality to enter the competition and submit official documentation of citizenship. Bands must include 30% British or Irish citizens, as long as more than half of their members live in the UK.

Sawayama said that she contemplated renouncing her Japanese citizenship in order to become eligible, until she realised that it wouldn’t “solve anything” and that she disagreed with “this definition of Britishness”.

Sawayama’s label, Dirty Hit, contacted the BPI to explain her nationality situation but “received a curt response”, according to Vice’s reporting.

A BPI spokesperson said: “Both the Brit awards and the Hyundai Mercury prize aim to be as inclusive as possible within their parameters, and their processes and eligibility criteria are constantly reviewed.” The organisation did not answer questions from the Guardian.

Sawayama recorded her critically acclaimed debut album, SAWAYAMA, in the UK and LA and said she is registered to pay tax in the UK. In 2018, she received a grant from the BPI’s Music Export Growth Scheme, which supports British musicians and music organisations looking to market themselves overseas.

She would also be ineligible for the British categories at the Brit awards, also run by the BPI, which require artists to be UK passport holders. She would be eligible for the international categories. Prestigious British songwriting awards the Ivor Novellos, on the other hand, require artists to have lived in the UK for one year to be considered eligible.

- theguardian.com