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Wednesday, September 8, 1999 Published at 00:29 GMT 01:29 UK


Newcomer wins top music prize

Singh: "Creator of electrifying rhythms and energy"

London-based dance musician Talvin Singh has won the prestigious Mercury Music Prize for his debut album OK.

Cutting-edge percussionist Singh had been a 10-1 outsider with the bookies for the coveted prize, which celebrates the best in contemporary British and Irish music.

The BBC's Madeleine Holt: "British Asian music is becoming increasingly established"
He beat better-known acts Blur, the Manic Street Preachers, and the Chemical Brothers, among others, to the prize of £20,000 and a guaranteed surge in sales.

The award judges described Singh, who combines musical traditions from east and west, as "a creator of electrifying rhythms and energy."

[ image:
"A remarkable musical trip across a global landscape"
"Talvin Singh takes the listener on a remarkable musical trip across a global landscape," they said.

The delighted musician said: "I was kind of surprised, but then I wasn't that surprised because I feel that I do deserve this award. My life has been a bit of a struggle.

"With me being of Asian origin I am a minority and this is celebrating the struggle of our forefathers."

He added: "The industry needs to accept music that's a bit colourful. I am not a minority anymore, I am a majority. This is celebrating that."

Bjork and Madonna

Singh, 28, was brought up in Leytonstone in East London, where his family moved after being ejected from Uganda by Idi Amin.

He first came to prominence collaborating with Bjork, but went on to host the renowned London club night Anokha.

[ image:  ]
Before producing his debut solo album this year, he oversaw the cult album 'Anokha, The Soundz Of The Asian Underground' in 1997.

Singh has also worked with an eclectic group of artists including Siouxie and the Banshees, David Sylvian, Future Sound of London, and Madonna.

Before winning the prize, he told journalists at the ceremony in London's Grosvenor House: "As long as I can wake up and keep making music every day, I'll be happy."

Manics lose out

The Mercury judges, who traditionally make their choice just minutes before the announcement, have a history of choosing outsiders to win the coveted prize.

[ image: The Manics: Favourites but lost out]
The Manics: Favourites but lost out
Last year little-known band Gomez, with band members from Southport and Matlock, won after seeing only modest sales of their blues-pop debut Bring It On.

The year before, few had predicted that low-key drum 'n' bass outfit Roni Size/Reprazent would triumph.

This year, chairman Simon Frith said the debate between the judges - mainly record industry executives - had been "unpleasant and acrimonious", although they had all agreed that the shortlist was "great".

Welsh rock band the Manic Street Preachers had been the bookies' favourite, with 3-1 odds of their album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, taking the prize.

[ image:  ]
They were just ahead of Beth Orton and dance act The Chemical Brothers, both at 4-1 with bookies William Hill.

The shortlist of albums was selected from across the board. Jazz, folk and classical artists were all in the running alongside some of the most successful names in pop and dance music.

The Chemical Brothers, Faithless and Underworld were all nominated for their dance music albums.

[ image: Beth Orton's 'poignant' album won her a second nomination.]
Beth Orton's 'poignant' album won her a second nomination.
Beth Orton had been nominated for her folky Central Reservation album, and Kate Rusby was another folk musician in the running.

Leeds band Black Star Liner was nominated for music comparable to Talvin Singh's, in the way the two combine the dance music from east and west.

Blur and Welsh band Stereophonics represented the more traditional guitar bands among the nominees.

Jazz saxophonist Denys Baptiste and innovative composer Thomas Ades made up the rest of the field.

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