Released in 2020, Rina Sawayama’s debut album, Sawayama, was easily among the best of that year. Following the record’s release, however, the musician revealed that she was ineligible for a Mercury Prize nomination, as well as domestic categories at the Brit Awards, due to nationality clauses (despite having lived in the UK for 25 years at the time).
Now, Sawayama has announced that the eligibility rules have been expanded, following “a number of conversations” with the BPI, the music industry body behind both awards. “Starting this year, artists (like me) will be eligible for nomination even without British citizenship,” she writes in an Instagram post on the significant victory. “The rules have broadened to include those who have been a resident of the UK for 5 years.”
Last year’s Mercury Prize rules dictated that artists must have British or Irish nationality, and provide official documentation of their citizenship, such as a passport. Although Sawayama was able to remain in the UK indefinitely, since moving when she was a toddler, Japanese rules meant that she couldn’t claim dual citizenship.
She goes on to thank those that took part in the #SAWAYAMAISBRITISH campaign following news of her ineligibility last year, for “igniting this important conversation about Britishness”.
“Without your collective voice this wouldn’t have happened,” she adds. “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.”