Dublin — It was a battle of the old guns and the newcomers at Dublin’s Vicar Street on Thursday night, but in the end experience was trumped by youth in the tussle for the Choice Music Prize.
The Irish Times
The award is nothing if not unpredictable when it comes to selecting winners, and Rusangano Family’s self-released album Let the Dead Bury the Dead was crowned the Irish Album of the Year 2016 in front of a sold-out audience, beating off competition from comparative stalwarts such as The Divine Comedy, James Vincent McMorrow, Lisa Hannigan and Wallis Bird, as well as rookies All Tvvins, Bantum and Overhead, the Albatross to claim the prize money and the distinctive blue-hued award.
The Limerick/Shannon-based African-Irish hip-hop trio were seen as rank outsiders for the prize amongst the arguably more commercially viable likes of James Vincent McMorrow and All Tvvins, and they were visibly stunned by their victory. Let the Dead Bury the Dead, in their own words, is an album that explores themes of “identity, isolation and where we belong”.
“We have to work in the morning,” said MC Godknows in his victory speech, adding that they would be celebrating with the children that they teach in Limerick and Clare, while producer and DJ John Lillis paid emotional tribute to those who had stood by them over the years.
The announcement was made just after 11pm by Snow Patrol’s Jonny Quinn after nine of the 10 nominated acts had performed live while 11 media professionals debated the merits of each album. Only James Vincent McMorrow was absent from the line-up, as the Dubliner is currently on tour in Australia. Highlights of the live show included Wallis Bird’s sean-nós style performance of the title track of her album Home, Lisa Hannigan’s stunning a cappella musical rendering of the Seamus Heaney poem Anahorish and All Tvvins’ blisteringly good set of propulsive, radio-friendly pop-rock tunes.
2FM DJ Eoghan McDermott took over from long-running host Paul McLoone as MC of the ceremony, as a result of the Choice Music Prize’s new sponsorship deal with RTÉ.
Earlier in the evening, the Irish Song of the Year 2016 award was presented to young up-and-coming Athy duo Picture This, who won for their track Take My Hand. Jimmy Rainsford and Ryan Hennessy beat the likes of former One Direction member Niall Horan, as well as James Vincent McMorrow, The Coronas and Walking on Cars to nab the prize, although they were not present to accept the award in person as they are currently in Nashville recording their debut album.
The duo have proved extraordinarily popular with young Irish audiences, selling out multiple nights at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre on the back of one single release last year. That same fan base did not let them down, as the Song of the Year was selected via a public vote.
In the end, however, it was perhaps fitting that the band whose name means “togetherness” in the Shona language of Zimbabwe, was the triumphant act, and perhaps the best manifestation of the ever-evolving nature of the Irish music scene.