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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 November 2006, 10:02 GMT
BBC names global talent finalists
Sweet Cherry Fury
Brazilian six-piece Sweet Cherry Fury are among the finalists
A Liberian refugee and a six-piece Brazilian rock group are among the finalists in the BBC World Service's search for the world's best young band.

More than 1,000 artists, all aged 18 or under, entered the Next Big Thing competition in September.

The seven finalists are expected to fly into the UK next week to perform at the BBC's famous Maida Vale studios.

A winner will be chosen by a panel of music industry experts, including Cathy Dennis and William Orbit.

The competition was open to groups and solo artists in any genre of music, as long as they were under 18 and performed their own songs.

High standards

Producer Simon Pitts said the entries came from 36 countries, "from Armenia to Azerbaijan and from Uruguay to Ukraine".

"People have been very surprised at the quality of the entries," he said, "but we weren't, because we had faith in the idea from the beginning".

THE FINALISTS
The Next Big Thing logo
Silva (Armenia)
Sweet Cherry Fury (Brazil)
MLK and The Dreamers (USA)
The Skagz (UK)
NiC (Malawi)
Mishkini (Ghana)
Stefan Abingdon (UK)

The standard of the submitted tracks was so high that the panel who drew up the shortlist could not decide on the required six finalists - and chose seven instead.

They include 17-year-old Armenian pop singer Silva Hakobyan, and Malawian rapper NiC, who performs in Greek and English.

Londoner Stefan Abingdon, whose hip-hop track My Dunks has also made the shortlist, said he was "really excited" to have been chosen.

"I've been trying to set up my music for the past four years and it's starting to get somewhere now," he said.

The 17-year-old will be travelling to Maida Vale for the final of the competition, but producers say some of his competitors may not be able to complete the journey.

"We have an act in Ghana, Mishkini, who is a Liberian refugee," said Pitts.

"He didn't have a birth certificate or a passport this time last week. He's now trying to get hold of them, as well as a visa."

The BBC is working with British embassies to help artists arrange travel to the UK in time for next week's recording.

Celebrity judges

Angelique Kidjo
Afropop star Angelique Kidjo is one of the competition's judges
The Maida Vale session takes place on 6 December, and the judges will announce the winner when the programme is broadcast on 9 December.

The panel includes William Orbit, who has produced hit singles for Madonna and All Saints, and Cathy Dennis, who wrote Kylie Minogue's Can't Get You Out of My Head.

Other members of the jury are Geoff Travis, who set up the influential Rough Trade record label, and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo, from Benin.

Peter Gabriel will also appear as a special guest, giving his verdict on the final seven acts.

The winner receives a trophy proclaiming them the world's best young band.

"It's a massive opportunity for international exposure," said Pitts. "The chances are great that 163 million people will hear the track and know the artist's name."

The Next Big Thing is part of the BBC World Service's Generation Next season, which focuses on young people and how they approach relationships, education and work.

It is hoped that the competition will become a regular event.


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