THE youngest winner of Scottish Album of the Year award has been presented with her trophy while in isolation following a positive Covid-19 test.
Edinburgh-based Nova, aka Shaheeda Sinckler took the 2020 award, which is dubbed the Scottish Mercury, for her debut album Re-Up and becomes the first rap/grime LP to win in the national music prize’s nine-year history.
It comes as the Scottish Music Industry Association warned that the music industry in the country is in danger of vanishing if action is not taken to save it during the coronavirus lockdown.
The award news was announced on the stage of Summerhall in Edinburgh by her manager Sof Staune (VAJ Power), with the artist’s initial shock reaction caught on camera and included as part of this year’s ceremony.
Global chart-topper Lewis Capaldi’s debut album Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent, which is on track to be the best selling album in the UK for a second year running, failed to even make the ten-album shortlist.
Nova’s album, which is just 18 minutes long and contains just six tracks, now joins LPs by Young Fathers, Sacred Paws, Kathryn Joseph and Anna Meredith as SAY Award winners.
The artist, who originally emerged from the Glasgow DIY art scene said: “It is such an incredible feeling to have won the 2020 Scottish Album of the Year Award, just a couple of weeks shy of my 25th birthday!
“It is so affirming – any doubts that I might have had previously are now out of the window and I’m seriously so excited for the future.
“I’m excited to keep on this upwards trajectory, thrilled to encounter new experiences and take my professionalism to the next level. To think that my manager and I had no idea where we would end up when we started working together and now to have made it here is just fantastic.
“It hasn’t always been easy – there have been a lot of late nights, night buses and moments of uncertainty, to name a few challenges, but winning this award has solidified my belief that hard work and determination bring results. So don’t call me lucky because I worked my butt off to move forward – and you can too.
“There is so much possibility in the air and I feel so free, nurturing old bonds and making new ones is what I can see on the horizon. I’ve already begun working on my next project and I cannot wait to see how that is received. I’m sending much love and blessings to everyone who made this possible.”
The awards ceremony also contained a serious message from Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA) general manager Robert Kilpatrick who said the industry was at risk due to to coronavirus lockdown.
“Artists are struggling to sustain themselves, music businesses are closing, jobs are being lost, and with those losses, skill-sets are leaving the industry too. The very infrastructure of what generated £5.2 billion for the UK economy in 2018 is crumbling, and if it’s not saved now, it will vanish, and the impact will be sorely felt for decades to come – not just by the music industry, but by all of us who benefit from having music in our lives,” he said.
“Whilst the current challenges are plentiful, and the impact of those challenges painful, never has it been more important for us to celebrate our music and culture. By celebrating, we help further articulate its value, increase its visibility and stimulate opportunity for our artists and music scene at a time where it’s never been needed more.
“Music is about so much more than just money, but money is absolutely essential to keep the artists we love and the industry which supports them afloat.”
The album was chosen by a 12-strong judging panel headed by Glasgow academic John Williamson, a music industry veteran who has worked as a music journalist, gig organiser, and band manager, including a stint managing Scottish indie-music heavyweights Belle and Sebastian.
He said: “Choosing one album over others to award a prize is, at the best of times, something of a fool’s errand.
“This year the judges had a not inconsiderable task – trying to compare the lavishly-produced and orchestrated against more homespun, DIY creations spanning a range of styles, backgrounds and outlooks.
“Nova’s Re-Up is, regardless, a worthy winner: brilliant, idiosyncratic and poetic: its brevity even challenges what we consider an album in the first place.”
The award ceremony was broacast online via YouTube Premiere, giving fans around the world the chance to be front row at the normally industry-only exclusive event.
The ceremony line-up included performances from some of Scotland’s most ecelectic new talent including Happy Spendy, Kapil Seshasayee, VLURE and Zoe Graham.
The nine other shortlisted albums collected £1,000 each, as well as their own bespoke commemorative trophy, created specifically for this year’s SAY.
The albums were Blanck Mass’s Animated Violence Mild, Bossy Love’s Me + U, Callum Easter’s Here Or Nowhere, Cloth’s Cloth, Comfort’s Not Passing, Declan Welsh & The Decadent West’s Cheaply Bought, Expensively Sold, Erland Cooper’s Sule Skerry, The Ninth Wave’s Infancy and SHHE’s SHHE.
Mr Kilpatrick added that Nova’s SAY Award win sends a “powerful message of hope and ambition to Scotland’s music scene at a time it’s never been needed more”.
“The fact it was delivered with the support of a range of local producers from across Scotland only goes to show the passion, strength and innovation of Scotland’s growing hip-hop/rap/grime scene, which I’m delighted that The SAY Award is shining a bright and well-deserved spotlight on through Nova’s win,” he said.
“In the context of 2020, Re-Up winning The SAY Award feels incredibly special.
“Scotland’s music industry is facing catastrophic challenges, and the live sector in particular is in urgent need of financial support; especially with the furlough scheme closing at the end of this month.
“It’s fitting that ‘Re-Up’ explores tales of a young artist in modern day Scotland struggling to keep financially afloat. These challenges poignantly mirror challenges that many of us in music face today, and in the articulation of these challenges through the creation of ‘Re-Up’, Nova now finds herself in a position where the future presents opportunity, recognition and ultimately hope. This is something that can and should inspire us all.”