“I just wanna dream the same dream as everyone else.”
Rina Sawayama has revealed that she’s not eligible for UK music awards.
Although the star’s self-titled debut album received widespread critical acclaim and has been featured in several “best of” lists this year, the album was omitted from last week’s Mercury Prize shortlist, with Elton John even stating on social media that it was “overlooked”.
In a new interview with Vice, the Dynasty songstress said she found out that her music isn’t eligible for the Mercury Prize or even the BRIT Awards due to her indefinite leave to remain visa, even though she’s lived in Britain for the past 25 years.
“It was so heartbreaking,” Rina said of the moment she found out. “I rarely get upset to the level where I cry. And I cried.”
The terms and conditions for the Mercury Prize (and the BRITs) state that solo artists must have British or Irish nationality to enter the competition, and part of the process involves sending official documentation of your citizenship to the organisers.
Although Rina’s label Dirty Hit explained Rina’s situation to the organisers, they received a “curt” email informing them that the rules wouldn’t be changed.
“All I remember is living here,” added Rina. “I’ve just lived here all my life. I went to summer school in Japan, and that’s literally it. But I feel like I’ve contributed to the UK in a way that I think is worthy of being celebrated, or at least being eligible to be celebrated.”
The star felt obligated to speak up about the clause because she doesn’t want any other musician to “feel like this, when they’ve worked so hard on something and everyone can see that you’ve worked really hard,” saying the people who “reward excellence in this country don’t.”
Rina admitted that the nationality clause wouldn’t be an issue if Japan, her birth country, allowed dual citizenship. She would only be permitted to enter UK music awards if she severed ties with Japan, which she’s reluctant to do because her whole family resides there.
“What I just want is for all the awards to look into indefinite leave and change the rules to what Britishness means to them,” added Rina. “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.”
A spokesperson for BFI said in a statement that 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.”
In a tweet, Rina said she’s just wants to “dream the same dream as everyone else” and urged her followers to tweet Mercury Prize, the BRITs and BFI to change the eligibility criteria, saying the rule affects “immigrant artists who contribute SO much to the UK culture and economy.”
if u wanna see CHANGE in the eligibility criteria then @ them @MercuryPrize @BRITs @bpi_music and tell them u want them to revise the citizenship requirements NOW. remember this rule will affect immigrant artists who contribute SO much to the UK culture and economy
— RINA SAWAYAMA (@rinasawayama) July 29, 2020