Clementine dedicates Mercury Prize to Paris

Benjamin Clementine.
Benjamin Clementine.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • British pianist-song- writer Benjamin Clementine last Friday won Britain's Mercury Prize for popular music for his debut album At Least For Now and dedicated the award to Paris.

The 26-year-old was born in London but lives in Paris, where he spent years as a street musician.

He dedicated his award to Paris, which a week earlier was hit by coordinated attacks that killed 130 people, and was in tears as he spoke: "I know this is about music, but I dedicate it to what happened about four or five days ago in Paris."

The Mercury Prize, which has often served as a critical boost for up-and-coming artists, is awarded each year by the music industry to the album judged to be the best in Britain or Ireland. It carries a cash award of £25,000 (S$38,000).

Clementine beat 11 other nominees who included Florence And The Machine, the theatrical but introspective rockers who have become coveted festival headliners, and innovative electronic composer Aphex Twin.

Clementine is known for his powerful, high-pitched voice and highly poetic lyrics, with a crowd-rousing delivery that has invited comparisons with Nina Simone.

The singer moved at age 19 to Paris, where he would play and often sleep, on the streets and gradually developed a performance style that defies traditional song structure.

Ahead of the ceremony, he told the BBC that he had travelled to Paris the day after the attacks to commiserate.

"Sometimes when someone passes away and they're not part of your family, you send your condolences. But if they're part of the family, who do you send your condolences to?" he asked.

"That's how I felt - like a part of my family had been stolen from me."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2015, with the headline 'Clementine dedicates Mercury Prize to Paris'. Print Edition | Subscribe