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Emmy The Great says a major music award committee checked her nationality after second LP release

30 July 2020, 14:11 | Written by Cerys Kenneally

Emmy The Great has revealed on Twitter that a major music award committee checked her nationality following the release of her second album Virtue in 2011.

Yesterday (29 July), British-Japanese artist Rina Sawayama spoke to Vice about how she's not eligible for the Mercury Prize or BRIT Awards because of her indefinite leave to remain visa, despite having lived in the UK for 25 years.

Sawayama explained that it was "so heartbreaking" when she found out she wasn't eligible. Later, she added, "What I just want is for all the awards to look into indefinite leave and change the rules to what Britishness means to them. 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. It's up to the award bodies to decide what Britishness really encompasses – the very things that they celebrate, which is diversity and opportunity."

Earlier today (30 July), Emmy The Great, who was born in Hong Kong and moved to the UK at a young age as a British citizen, responded to Sawayama's interview revealing her nationality was questioned by a music award committee back in 2011. She wrote, "In 2011, after LP2, my manager told me she’d been contacted by a major music award committee to check if I was British. I was in shock for maybe three years and then settled into the mild cynicism and slight mistrust that fuels me now."

In the Twitter thread, Emmy The Great continued, "I’d put this award on a pedestal and then discovered it had a similar attitude towards me to kids in school who weren’t sure where HK was (fair enough, they were just kids)."

"The UK music industry is so creative and vast," she added, "and yet some people feel that they perpetually operate outside of it, even when they are contributing directly to it for their entire professional lives."

In the final tweet of the thread, Emmy The Great wrote, "Solidarity to Rina Sawayama, it’s a lonely feeling to be asserting your right to be you, instead of freely celebrating the joy of an album release."

A fan responded saying that her first two albums are "so profoundly English", to which Emmy The Great replied, "Thank you so much. I think the fear for me was that, while I was using music to explore a profoundly-felt identity, others might wonder if I had the right to do so. Scary implications for my career if this included gatekeepers within the industry I was trying to make it in."

Earlier this month, Emmy The Great released new single "Dandelions/Liminal" from her upcoming LP April / 月音.

Emmy The Great's April / 月音 album lands via Bella Union on 9 October, and is available to pre-order now.
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