Jazz musicians picket Mobo stars after being cut from awards list

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The Independent Culture

They were created in a bid to showcase and celebrate black music and have grown to attract the biggest international stars.

But the Mobo (Music of Black Origin) Awards faced a picket last night by British jazz stars furious that the ceremony has dropped their music as a category.

While the likes of Corinne Bailey-Rae and Lemar were honoured inside the Royal Albert Hall, a band including the former Mobo winner Soweto Kinch and led by the trumpeter/vocalist Abram Wilson - whose jazz crosses into hiphop - played outside.

Backed by many other musicians from the British jazz scene, the protestors argued that the Mobos appeared to have forgotten their original purpose.

Soweto Kinch, an alto saxophonist, said it was impossible to get anything more black than jazz, which he said had been enormously influential across many other genres of music. "I just think it's preposterous," he said. "It is ludicrous to have these pretensions to being a global and significant and world-class event and ignore a vibrant and healthy jazz scene, internationally and in the UK."

The Mobos were failing to respect and develop the indigenous music scene, he said, and had lost their credibility. "I don't think they value enough what's on their doorstep," he said. "They want to hobnob with big American stars."

Kanya King, the awards' founder, said the range of music encompassed by the Mobos was great and there were constraints imposed by the format of an award show.

"We're the biggest black music show and we've got to be everything to everyone because there's not much else out there for them."

But she claimed the row had encouraged interest in jazz and insisted the category had not necessarily been dropped for good. "We didn't have gospel last year but we do this," she said.

The protest did nothing to dim the pleasure for Corinne Bailey-Rae who flew in from her American tour to perform and pick up two awards.

Despite being ignored by the judges for the Nationwide Mercury Prize, Leeds-born Bailey-Rae, 27, has had a striking year in which she achieved chart success in the States as well as on home turf with her eponymous album debut.

Last night she was named best UK newcomer against rivals including Lady Sovereign and Fundamental 03 and best UK female against competition from Mobo veterans Beverly Knight and Jamelia.

Akala, the north London-born younger brother of the award-winning Miss Dynamite, also triumphed, taking the best hip-hop title from under the nose of Kanye West and last year's breakthrough acts Sway and Kano.

Lemar, who took home the best album Mobo last year, was named best UK male artist this year in a vote that left Kano and Sway disappointed again. He performed his new single, "It's Not That Easy" in the show, which, for the first time, was broadcast live on BBC3.

But it was Beyoncé Knowles who was the biggest winner of the night. The American superstar received a hat trick of awards - best international female, best song, for "Déjà vu" with her boyfriend Jay-Z, and best video.

The winners

* Best group - Black Eyed Peas

* Best UK female - Corinne Bailey-Rae

* Best UK male - Lemar

* Best UK newcomer, in association with London Tonight - Corinne Bailey-Rae

* Best song, in association with Galaxy - Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z - 'Déjà vu'

* Best international female - Beyoncé

* Best international male - Jay-Z

* Best hiphop - Akala

* Best reggae - Sean Paul

* Best DJ - Steve Sutherland

* Best African act, in association with AUMG Live - Batman Samini

* Best video, in association with MTV Base - Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z; 'Déjà vu'

* Best R&B - Rihanna

* Best gospel - Nu Life

* Lifetime achievement award - Sam Moore