15th Apr 2024

Indie music sector launches European prize

  • The aim is to draw attention to music from independent record labels across the continent (Photo: realSMILEY)

Norwegian lo-fi, Dutch klezmer and Czech jazz on independent record labels - bands and musicians rarely bestowed with such commercially oriented and anglo-obsessed accolades as the Grammys or the Brits - now have a pan-European music award, modelled on the UK's Mercury Prize, to call their own.

Impala, the Brussels-based European Independent Music Companies Association, on Wednesday (16 February) announced its shorlist of albums by 21 artists for the inaugural European independent music prize.

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"The idea was to develop a European independent music prize with the same sort of prestige amongst artists as the Mercury Music Prize," Impala representative James Taylor told EUobserver. "We looked at quite a few though - the Polaris prize, Ireland's independent music prize. Australia has launched one too."

In recent years, honours selected by juries of musicians themselves such as Canada's Polaris prize, Ireland's Choice Music prize and the US-based Shortlist award have sprung up, aiming to give recognition to innovative non-mainstream artists rather than to those who simply sell the most records or MP3s.

The nominees, covering genres as diverse as Finnish rap, Cypriot metal and French cajun, hail from 14 European states. Unlike the European Union's literature award, not every state has to have a nominee, and there will be only one winner. Each national independent record label was asked to submit two nominees: a domestic record and one from across Europe.

As a result, the UK is heavily represented, with four acts on UK labels: Field Music, The National (which is actually a US band, but on Britain's 4AD imprint), Skunk Anansie and Underworld, as is Sweden, Spain, France and Denmark, who have two nominees a piece, with names on the shortlist including Stockholm's The Concretes, Copenhagen's Efterklang and Delorean, a Basque four-piece from Zarautz who have impressed reviewers for their renovation of 1990s-style house piano for the second decade of the 21st Century.

While the Canadian Polaris music prize hands over a $20,000 cheque to its winners, the Impala delivers no extra cash, but the nominees are hopeful that the honour will boost their listenership in what is a very US and UK focussed industry.

EUobserver spoke to Vedran Mujagic, the bassist with Dubioza Kolektiv, a Bosnian dub and ska outfit whose nominated album, 5 Do 12, is on the country's Menart label.

"This is a really big thing for us, and probably all the bands. Hopefully it'll be good at getting us media attention," he said. "It's the first time there's something like this for independent bands. We're really happy to represent our country."

Dubioza Kolektiv, a multi-ethnic slice of the former Yugoslavia, whose seven Bosniak, Serb and Croat members hail from Sarajevo, Mostar and Zepce, in their lyrics focus on their frustrations at the damaged politics and economics of the region.

"We sing about the context in which we live. We're very politically engaged," Mr Vedran continued. "It's still a very divided country fifteen years after the end of the war. If we didnt' sing about this, we wouldn't feel comfortable."

The band has toured throughout Europe heavily, which has not been without its frustrations as a result of EU visa restrictions, that were finally lifted last December. "We know what it feels like to travel everywhere with visas, how people from the third world feel."

The band even seems familiar with EU jargon: "Now we're in Schengen it'll be much easier."

They sing in Bosnian, the Bosniak version of Serbo-Croat, "but the new album, which is out on 1 April, will be in English and focus on wider global topics, to aim at an international audience."

While they have international ambitions, they still very much support the home team. If they had a vote in for the Impala prize, they would back a nominee that plays Croatian surf-rock.

"Apart from us, I'd go for Bambi Molesters. They're good guys. We've shared stages with them several times. They have a very good album."

Dubioza Kolektiv play Rock D'hiver in Tournai Belgium on Friday, 18 February.

The full list of nominated albums for 2010 are listed below, by artist and label:

- Aeroplane - We Can't Fly (Eskimo Recordings) Belgium (artist), Belgium (label)

- Arryan Path - Terra Incognita (Pitch Black Records) Cyprus (artist), Cyprus (label)

- Asa – Beautiful Imperfection (Naïve) Nigeria (artist) France (label)

- Bambi Molesters - As The Dark Wave Swells (Dancing Bear) Croatia (artist) Croatia (label)

- Delorean - Subiza (Mushroom Pillow) Spain (artist), Spain (label)

- Dubioza Kolektiv - 5 Do 12 (Menart) Bosnia (artist), Bosnia (label)

- Efterklang - Magic Chairs (Rumraket/4AD) Denmark (artist), Denmark (label)

- Bjørn Eidsvåg - Rundt Neste Sving (Petroleum Records) Norway (artist), Norway (label)

- El Guincho - Pop Negro (Young Turks) Spain (artist), UK (label)

- Caro Emerald - Deleted scenes from the cutting room floor (Grand Mono) Netherlands (artist), Netherlands (label)

- Feloche - La Vie Cajun (Ya Basta) France (artist), France (label)

- Field Music - Field Music (Measure) (Memphis Industries) UK (artist), UK (label)

- Irie Rock Trio - Kickout (CLS Music) Hungary (artist), Hungary (label)

- Junip - Fields (City Slang) Sweden (artist), Germany (label)

- Agnes Obel - Philharmonics (PIAS) Denmark (artist), Benelux/UK/France (label)

- Paleface - Helsinki Shangri-la (XO Records) Finland (artist), Finland (label)

- Skunk Anansie - Wonderlustre (V2 Benelux/earMUSIC) UK (artist), Benelux/Germany (label)

- The Concretes - WYWH (Licking Fingers) Sweden (artist), Sweden (label)

- The National - High Violet (4AD) USA (artist), UK (label)

- Underworld - Barking (Cooking Vinyl) UK (artist), UK (label)

- Various - Nonplace - 10th Anniversary Edition (Nonplace Records 2010/ Non28) Germany (artist), Germany (label)

Impala has partnered with Spotify to produce a playlist of tracks by the nominees.

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