London musician Sampha was awarded Britain’s Mercury Prize on Thursday for his debut album, “Process”, beating out competition from singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran.
“I feel like I’m dreaming. This is incredible,” Sampha said as he collected his prize at the Apollo venue in west London.
“I’d like to dedicate this award to my parents, you know they came over from Sierra Leone and they just wanted to give us the best upbringing possible,” he added, picking up the award from British actor Idris Elba.
Sampha beat nominees including fellow singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, breakthrough grime star Stormzy, and former winners The xx.
The Mercury Prize showcases a range of music genres by celebrating the best album by a British or Irish artist each year, picking a winner from a shortlist of 12.
“Sampha is an exceptional singer-songwriter — compelling, yearning and inspirational,” organisers said when the shortlist was announced.
His debut album was described by NME music magazine as a “finely crafted and devastating take on the loss of his mother to cancer” when it was released in February.
After collecting the award, Sampha played his piano track “(Nobody Knows Me) Like The Piano”, later saying it was an “overwhelming” performance during which he was overcome by happiness and the sense of loss woven into the lyrics.
Despite being the musician’s debut album, Sampha has already been involved in high-profile collaborations including with hip-hop star Drake.
As well as an instant boost to album sales, the winner also picks up £25,000 ($33,500, 28,000 euros) in prize money.
Each year the winner is chosen by a 12-strong judging panel, which this year included musicians Jamie Cullum and Marcus Mumford.
The 2016 Mercury Prize went to grime hip-hop artist Skepta, for his album “Konnichiwa” in recognition of a resurgent homegrown genre.
The inaugural prize in 1992 was awarded to Primal Scream, for their album “Screamadelica”.