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Ezra Collective wins Mercury Prize 2023 for album Where I’m Meant to Be

British jazz quintet Ezra Collective have won the Mercury Prize for the best British or Irish album of 2023 for Where I’m Meant to Be.

Ezra Collective is composed of drummer and bandleader Femi Koleoso, bassist TJ Koleoso, keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones, trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi, and tenor saxophonist James Mollison.

The group took out the top prize over nominated artists including Fred Again.., Arctic Monkeys and Raye.

The Mercury Prize awards ceremony took place on Thursday evening at the Eventim Apollo in London’s Hammersmith and featured live performances from some of the shortlisted artists as well as Ezra Collective.

Accepting the prize onstage, bandleader Femi Koleoso thanked God, their team and family who have supported them through the years.

He said: “Most importantly Ezra Collective represents something really special because we met in a youth club.”

The drummer added that this award represents the importance of putting “time and effort into young people playing music”.

In 2020 Ezra Collective embarked on their first world tour and travelled to Japan, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand before the Covid pandemic hit.

They found themselves back home in London with little else to do than compose. The band’s second studio album, Where I’m Meant To Be, reframes feeling out of place as a launchpad for growth.

“During lockdown, I had this feeling that I wasn’t necessarily where I wanted to be, but if I kept working at it, I would be soon,” Ezra Collective’s drummer and bandleader Femi Koleoso previously told the Standard.

“With our new album, we wanted to evoke that journey.”

At the awards ceremony on Thursday Radio DJ and broadcaster Lauren Laverne hosted the ceremony which featured live performances from nine of the shortlisted artists.

Raye dazzled the crowd with her song The Thrill Is Gone while rapper Loyle Carner gave a powerful performance of his track HGU.

Soul singer Olivia Dean also delivered a lively rendition of her track Carmen, Scottish band Young Fathers amped up the energy with their song I Saw and musical duo Jockstrap gave a sparky performance of their song Concrete Over Water.

Ezra Collective, London-born singer Jessie Ware, rapper and singer Shygirl and Irish folk group Lankum also performed on the night.

Arctic Monkeys and Fred Again.. were both not able be attend the ceremony as they are on tour in September, but a live performance film was shown to celebrate their albums.

Producer Fred Again.., who is hosting a residency at Alexandra Palace in London this week, sent a video message apologising for not being able to attend the event, adding: “I’m so so so truly grateful to be shortlisted alongside so many people I truly admire.”

Rapper J Hus, who was shortlisted with his album Beautiful And Brutal Yard, was also not able to attend the event due to illness.

Last year, the Mercury Prize was won by Little Simz for her fourth album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert.