Ossa Music Prize 2021
Singer-songwriter guitarist Christian ‘Karai’ Hemara is the recipient of the University of Tasmania’s 2021 Ossa Music Prize.
The Melbourne-born, Hobart-based musician was one of three finalists who competed for the honour at a public performance on Friday, 2 July at the Hedberg. Named after Tasmania’s highest mountain peak, the OSSA Prize was established in 2018 by University Alumnus, Mr Rod Roberts, to help students pursue excellence in musicianship.
“We are confident that Karai will be an excellent ambassador for the music program and the University,” said Head of Music Arabella Teniswood-Harvey. “His musical skill is matched by thoughtful and poetic lyrical content that demonstrates his empathy with the human condition.”
Karai, who is studying a Bachelor of Music, also won the People’s Choice Award.
Karai credits his musician father and grandparents for his love for music, which drew him to start singing at a young age, before eventually deciding to pursue music seriously at the age of 18.
The $2,500 prize includes a cash component, which will enable Karai to purchase musical equipment or fund tuition. The prize also supports the young artist to embark on a statewide performance tour, with a special focus on Tasmania’s north, northwest and east coast regions.
“The funded tour provides invaluable performance opportunities through which Karai will learn to adapt to differing venues and audiences, and have the opportunity to refine and reimagine his program along the way,” said Dr Teniswood-Harvey.
The judges agreed that of the three finalists, Karai was the most ready and prepared for the experience the prize offers him. Dr Teniswood-Harvey noted that Karai has already accrued significant professional experience. “This was evident in the ease with which he handled the occasion,” she said.
Karai has been singing professionally since 2007, and has toured Australia with artists including Prinnie and Mahalia, Chet Faker, Ngaiire, Sampa the Great, Okenyo, New Venusians and Sex on Toast. He has also performed alongside Ngaiire, supporting Leon Bridges and the Black Seeds.
The two other finalists were Silikill Extract, featuring Dominic Nguyen (double bass), Gabrielle Cayoun (piano) and Gianni Posadas-Sen (flute and voice); and Elijah Davies (Guitar) with Seb Folvig (Double Bass) and Chris McGuinness-Terry (Drums).
“It was a fantastic evening of very diverse and exciting music making from intelligent, skilled and enthusiastic performers working in the areas of experimental music, songwriting and jazz,” said Arabella Teniswood-Harvey. “We were particularly thrilled that all performances included original music and commend the finalists for their commitment to musical innovation.”
The judges included Dr Teniswood-Harvey, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s Simon Rogers and Australian trumpeter Scott Tinkler. The evening also included a performance from the 2019 Ossa Music Prize winner, Naarah, with Dr Michael Kieran Harvey.
(top) Christian ‘Karai’ Hemara performs at the Ossa Music Prize public performance at the Hedberg.
(middle) Mr Rod Roberts, Associate Professor Meg Keating, Christian ‘Karai’ Hemara, Dr Arabella Teniswood-Harvey, Professor Kate Darian-Smith