World Pioneer Award
When we interviewed Nitin Sawhney for the cover feature of our October 2019 issue (#151), it was frustrating not to be able to break our own embargo and reveal that he was to be the fourth winner of the World Pioneer Award, following in the footsteps of the previous winners – Island Records’ founder Chris Blackwell, Éthiopiques curator Francis Falceto and the Beninese powerhouse Angélique Kidjo. The composer, producer and musical polymath’s repertoire encompasses Hindustani classical, hip-hop, Western classical, jazz, flamenco and a hundred other eclectic influences. It is the perfect symbolic moment to present Sawhney with this award, for 2019 marks a quarter of a century since his solo debut Spirit Dance and 20 years since Beyond Skin, his defining breakthrough that helped take British Asian music into the mainstream with its themes of identity, nationality, race and religion, which seem more starkly relevant today than ever.
“I’m humbled by even being considered for such an award and hugely grateful for the support Songlines has offered over 20 years,” Sawhney says of the award. Yet if the World Pioneer accolade is world music’s equivalent of a lifetime achievement award, Sawhney’s work is anything but done. He recently signed to Sony’s Masterworks label and is currently working on the follow-up to 2015’s Dystopian Dream.