Ezra Collective win prestigious Mercury Prize

Entertainment

Ezra Collective have won this year’s Mercury Prize, with their album Where I’m Meant To Be.

The instrumental jazz group beat acts including Raye, Jessie Ware and J Hus to claim the prestigious award and the £25,000 prize at a star-studded ceremony held at London’s Hammersmith Apollo.

Nine of the 12 nominated acts played on stage ahead of the announcement, while live performance films were shown on screen to celebrate Arctic Monkeys and Fred Again, who were both unable to attend due to tour shows, and J Hus was unable to get to the event due to illness.

Collecting their award, bandleader Femi Koleoso thanked God, their families and team, and hailed their youth club beginnings, before performing once more.

The group is made up of Koleoso, bassist TJ Koleoso, keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones, saxophonist James Mollison and trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi.

They released their debut album You Can’t Steal My Joy in 2019, dropping Where I’m Meant to Be in November 2022.

Mercury Prize 2023 – the 12 shortlisted albums

  • Arctic Monkeys – The Car
  • Ezra Collective – Where I’m Meant to Be
  • Fred Again – Actual Life 3 (January 1 – September 9 2022)
  • J Hus – Beautiful And Brutal Yard
  • Jessie Ware – That! Feels Good!
  • Jockstrap – I Love You Jennifer B
  • Lankum – False Lankum
  • Loyle Carner – Hugo
  • Olivia Dean – Messy
  • Raye – My 21st Century Blues
  • Shygirl – Nymph
  • Young Fathers – Heavy Heavy

Speaking before the ceremony to Sky News, Koleoso said it meant a lot for their style of music to be introduced to a bigger stage.

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“You can’t help but type your name into Twitter, (now known as X) and see what people are saying, and there’s been a bunch of people saying things along the lines of, ‘never heard of a jazz band or this jazz band before, never listened to a jazz album before, but I can’t believe it, I actually liked it’, and that’s exciting.

“I think that’s what happens when you’re a long list of superstars that everyone in the country knows all the way to someone that they’ve never heard of, and they’ve never even listened to instrumental music, and they gave it a go.”

Jessie Ware, who was nominated for the second time, told Sky News she was having a “good time” with her music.

“I found my place in music – maybe it’s from raving when I was younger and that feeling of community on the dance floor, and I’ve found the most beautiful community in my fans and, I’m having a good time,” she said.

“I think also being honest and being yourself is kind of the best. It sounds really naff, but it’s great, it’s worked alright for me.”

Raye, who recently left her label in order to release her first album, told Sky News: “Being here today, it just takes me back to two years ago or whatever where I was so disappointed in myself as an artist – I was the opposite of what I feel like I am now… I didn’t ever think I would get the chance to almost start again or go again.”

Judges this year included former nominees Anna Calvi and Hannah Peel, as well as other industry names such as musician Jamie Cullum, broadcaster and DJ MistaJam, and music critic Will Hodgkinson.

First won by Primal Scream’s Screamadelica in 1992, the Mercury Prize celebrates music by British and Irish acts and recognises the 12 best albums of the year, introducing records from a range of music genres to a wider audience.

The awards are known for celebrating different artists throughout all stages of their careers, from newcomers to veterans, and for potentially putting artists who are not huge names on the map.

Rapper Little Simz picked up the prize for her fourth album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert last year, while other recent winners include Arlo Parks, Michael Kiwanuka, Dave and Wolf Alice.

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