BBC’s Next Big Thing music contest announces finalists

The BBC’s international search for the world’s best young band or solo artist is heading towards the grand finale with young musicians from Armenia, Brazil, Ghana, Malawi, UK and USA winning their way into the final. The global panel of judges of BBC World Service’s The Next Big Thing contest has short-listed Silva (Armenia), Sweet Cherry Fury (Brazil), Mishkini (Ghana), NiC (Nick Giannakis) (Malawi), The Skagz (UK), Stefan Abingdon (UK) and MLK and the Dreamers (USA) as finalists. The seven finalists are expected to fly into the UK next week to perform at the BBC’s famous Maida Vale studios.

The Next Big Thing is showcasing musicians who are 18 or under, compose original tracks and are unsigned. The short list was judged by a global panel of music industry names including critics, artists, record label pioneers and industry heavyweights. The BBC initially planned to short-list six finalists, but the global panel came up with seven names. The Next Big Thing producer Simon Pitts explains: “We had such a high standard of entries it was simply impossible to get it down to six.”

One of the panellists, British writer and broadcaster, Miranda Sawyer, described Silva and her song I Like as “unnervingly sophisticated”. UK-based Gareth Simpson, who recently developed OXJAM – Oxfam’s most ambitious music event ever – said he liked the range of influences evident on Silva’s performance: “There’s an eastern feel fused with a contemporary R&B.”

Ilka Schlockermann, German-born and now UK-based musician, producer and publicist, described Mishkini’s act, 3 Eyez, as “an interesting, mellow track” while Sergio Dias, the lead singer and founder of the internationally acclaimed Brazilian band Os Mutantes, liked the rhythm division of Mishkini’s melody which he described as “simple but hearty”. Sergio Dias also liked the “well produced, good contrasts” of Stefan Abingdon’s My Dunks.

Another The Next Big Thing judge, Bernie Cho, Manager of MTV Korea’s Creative and Content Department, was full of praise for NiC’s act, Take A Look Into My Eyes: “With tight lyrics, disciplined delivery, and mood-swinging instrumentals, NiC’s hypnotic hip-hop track has all the basic ingredients for a good to go, radio-friendly song. But by throwing in some off-colour, off-speed counterjabs like electric guitar chords and exotic, operatic choruses, NiC surges from OK to excellent on my scorecard. A nice, mature effort…”

Swedish producer, music engineer, DJ, musician and label manager, Christopher Berg had special praise for The Skagz’s song, Whitwell: “I like the quirky verse-groove… and this band understands the importance of a dynamic arrangement… I could see this band getting signed and releasing something successful, with the right producer involved.”

Broadcast journalist and academic from China, Mao Xi, explained that she chose MLK and the Dreamers’ song, Great Man, because “it proves a band can still make music using traditional instruments and without the latest technical equipment. It is a good song where everyone involved is having fun and the listener is drawn into the happiness.”

The tracks can be heard at www.bbcworldservice.com/thenextbigthing

The Next Big Thing final will take place on Saturday, 9 December 2006, in a special programme. Producer William Orbit (of Madonna, Robbie Williams and Sugababes fame) will be joined by world music legends Cathy Dennis, Angelique Kidjo, Rough Trade founder Geoff Travis (Antony & The Johnsons, The Strokes, The Smiths) and special guest Peter Gabriel in a live show to select the winner from six finalists.

The competition is part of a week of programmes from BBC World Service, Generation Next, which explores the real issues in the world according to under 18s.

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Website: http://www.bbcworldservice.com/thenextbigthing
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