“Ten years ago the Mobo awards suspended its jazz and world music categories. I was relieved to see the world music category go in light of the problematic implications of the title. I hoped that in years to come, a means of honouring music from non-western regions of the world that didn’t use language with reductionist, colonial undertones could be found and integrated into the awards structure. Maybe I was naive (I was young), but wistful thinking allowed me to believe that an element of consciousness contributed to the axing of this category.
The jazz snub hit closer to home. A genre which, at the time, was confined largely to a niche would be further marginalised, and the fleeting moment of visibility jazz artists received when nominated would be gone. I was a part of the protest that helped to reinstate the jazz award the following year, and have since taken a keen interest in the impact that this, and other mainstream awards, have on my field of practice.
In 2013, Sons of Kemet, in which I play the saxophone, won the Mobo award for best jazz act. This marked a turning point for us. In principle, I don’t believe awards should necessarily be signifiers of a band’s level of accomplishment, but in practice the tangible benefits it brings cannot be denied – after the win our fanbase outside of London increased massively. Mainstream awards can propel acts from a regional to a national stage and for us, trying to expand our touring reach, the push was invaluable.“