Rina Sawayama Speaks Out About Exclusion From the BRIT Awards

Rina Sawayama

Rina Sawayama has replied to her exclusion from the BRIT Awards, which barred the British-Japanese artist from submitting for consideration her critically acclaimed album, SAWAYAMA. Fans and critics alike — like Elton John — pointed out the fact that Sawayama was ignored when the BRIT Awards revealed the shortlist for its Hyundai Mercury Prize.

Sawayama has indefinite leave to remain (ILR), a form of visas that provides permanent residence and job rights in the UK. Notwithstanding her contributions to music — and the fact that she has been living in the UK since she was a kid — the ILR status of Sawayama makes her unable to win the Mercury Prize.

“I have just spent my entire life [in the UK]. I went to Japan’s summer school and that’s it, basically, “Rina Sawayama told VICE. “Still feel like I’ve contributed to the UK in a way I consider worth celebrating, or at least deserving to be celebrated,” the artist said, adding that the situation is making her doubt her identity. “[As an immigrant], you ‘re getting to a point where you don’t have to think about your nationality and status and whether you’re fitting in. Stuff like that bring sharp focus, like, whether I’m still British.

Sawayama hopes the BRIT Awards will broaden the concept of “Britishness” to include a broader variety of people in the future. “When arts awards build their own kind of border protection version of their qualifications, I think it is very problematic,” she said. “It is up to the award bodies to decide what really constitutes Britishness — the very values they honor, which is diversity and opportunity.”

In response to Sawayama ‘s concerns, BPI, the governing body for the BRIT Awards, released a statement: “The BRIT Awards and the Hyundai Mercury Prize strive to be as inclusive as possible within their boundaries, and their processes and eligibility requirements are continually checked.”