The artist, full name Sampha Sisay, won the Hyundai Mercury prize for his critically acclaimed debut album Process. At the ceremony, Sampha performed, to silence then wild cheers (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano, which, for emotional types, was one of the most heartbreaking and beautiful singles of the year.
Afterwards, he said it was an amazing feeling to win. “It’s taken me quite a while to feel like I was emotionally stable enough to write my own record and people have just been incredibly lovely and understanding … it feels like a weight off my shoulders.”
Sampha’s gorgeous, distinctive, soulful voice has appeared on songs by some of the biggest names in US hip-hop and R&B including Beyoncé, Drake, Solange and Kanye West.
But it has taken some time for the 28-year-old to blossom into a notable recording artist in his own right, with an album heavily influenced by the death of his mother from cancer and fears for his own health.
Sampha was one of five south London artists nominated for this year’s prize and is probably the most unassuming of all the nominees. Asked what he would do with the prize money he gave the most un-rock‘n‘roll answer it’s possible to give.
“Put it away? Save it up? Saving is always good.” How would he celebrate? “I just want to see my family and friends, have a couple of drinks.”
He said artists always struggled with self-esteem, so to win the Mercury “definitely does give you a boost”.
Sampha had been among the bookmakers’ favourites to win, up against artists including Kate Tempest, Stormzy, and Ed Sheeran who, with the best will in the world, no one expected to pick up the prize. Another debutant, J Hus, had been heavily tipped too.
The actor Idris Elba gave Sampha his £25,000 prize at a ceremony with performances…