Artist News Awards

Emmy The Great says her nationality was queried by “a major music award”

By | Published on Friday 31 July 2020

Emmy The Great

Emmy The Great has said that “a major music award” queried her nationality in 2011, despite her being a British citizen. This follows the news that Rina Sawayama did not receive a Mercury Prize nomination this year because she was not deemed British enough.

The query regarding Emmy The Great – real name Emma-Lee Moss – seemingly occurred because she was born in Hong Kong. But when she was born, Hong Kong was still a British colony, and she moved to the UK as a British citizen while still a child.

In a series of tweets, she said: “In 2011, after LP2, my manager told me she’d been contacted by a major music award committee to check if I was British. I was in shock for maybe three years and then settled into the mild cynicism and slight mistrust that fuels me now”.

“I’d put this award on a pedestal and then discovered it had a similar attitude towards me to kids in school who weren’t sure where HK was (fair enough, they were just kids)”, she continued.

“The UK music industry is so creative and vast, and yet some people feel that they perpetually operate outside of it, even when they are contributing directly to it for their entire professional lives”, she went on. “Solidarity to Rina Sawayama, it’s a lonely feeling to be asserting your right to be you, instead of freely celebrating the joy of an album release”.

In a subsequent tweet, she added: “I think the fear for me was that, while I was using music to explore a profoundly-felt identity, others might wonder if I had the right to do so. Scary implications for my career if this included gatekeepers within the industry I was trying to make it in”.

Earlier this week – after much uproar that she was not included in this year’s Mercury Prize shortlist – Sawayama revealed that she had not been allowed to enter. Born in Japan, she has lived in the UK since she was a toddler and has indefinite leave to remain status. However, she does not hold the British passport necessary to be considered for a Mercury.