In a year where so much has had to be re-worked and so many have been affected by Coronavirus and lockdowns, much of the music industry has had to move online. Over the past week, Sound of Belfast has done just that. Last night, the week of events culminated in the annual Northern Ireland Music Prize, taking place virtually for the first time, with people tuning in on Youtube all over the world to witness performances from a handful of nominated artists and of course find out this year’s winners.
With four main categories, the biggest award is the NI Music Prize itself, awarded for best album. This year’s winner amongst a shortlist of great releases was Kitt Philippa with their debut album Human. Philippa’s presence and music have gone through years of evolution and change, their artistry shining above all, before releasing an incredible, emotive album. Kitt Philippa takes home the award and a £3000 prize.
The rest of the categories were conducted by public vote. The winner in the Best Single category was Arborist – ‘Here Comes the Devil’. Taken from his second album A Northern View, ‘Here Comes the Devil’ is typical of Mark McCambridge’s penchant for dark folk. Another well contested category saw New Pagans win the award for Best Live Act. The five piece’s incendiary performances no doubt left a mark on many. Then the Oh Yeah Contender for best new act; the winner, Sasha Samara, who impressed with her ukulele led pop performances on the night.
Also awarded on the night was the Oh Yeah Legend, this year given posthumously to the late Bap Kennedy. Presented by BBC presenter Ralph McClean, who effused praise for the singer-songwriter, Kennedy’s award was accepted on his behalf by wife Brenda Boyd Kennedy.
The Oh Yeah and the various teams behind the award adapted the event magnificently to the circumstances. The quality of music across the shortlists and beyond was a fine example of Northern Irish music punching well above its weight, and the judges will have had a very difficult decision to make on the main prize. Wonderful performances by Sasha Samara, Arborist, Joshua Burnside, Phil Kieran, Careerist and winner Kitt Philippa gave us the live music we all missed, while the show was hosted by Gemma Bradley and Rigsy. You can watch the whole event back on Youtube below.