The London musician Sampha won the prestigious Mercury Prize for his debut studio album "Process," beating international sensations such as Ed Sheeran or The xx.
"I feel like I'm dreaming. This is incredible," said the 28-year-old singer as he accepted the prize during the ceremony held in London on Thursday night. "I'd like to dedicate this award to my parents who came over from Sierra Leone and just wanted to give us the best upbringing possible," he added.
The album, which was released in February, received very positive reviews. AllMusic's Andy Kellman wrote that "Sampha's vocals can be an acquired taste, but they're instantly identifiable and heartfelt," while Clayton Purdom from A. V. Club called the album an "R&B debut for the ages."
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The Mercury Prize jury, made up of 12 members and including this year acclaimed talents such as singer Jamie Cullum or musician Marcus Mumford, chose the album over the 11 other nominees, beating Ed Sheeran's "÷" or "I See You" by The xx.
"Sampha is an exceptional singer-songwriter – compelling, yearning and inspirational," said the Mercury Prize organizers earlier this year when the shortlist was announced.
Before the release of his debut, Sampha had already worked with famous artists such as Kanye West or Drake and released two EPs. The debut album "Process" was affected by Sampha's mother dying of cancer in 2015.
The Mercury Prize, which is one of the most prestigious recognitions for musicians in the UK and Ireland, was awarded in 1992 for the first time and aims to promote the best musical acts every year. Apart from the metal statuette, the winners also receive 25,000 pounds ($33,600, 28,175 euros).
Past winners of the Mercury prize include stars such as The Arctic Monkeys or Franz Ferdinand.
jt/eg (dpa, AFP)