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Grammy nominee Ondara wins $25,000 ISC grand prize



By Nehru Odeh

Grammy-nominee singer and songwriter Ondara, has won the Grand Prize of the 2022 International Songwriting Competition, ISC. The United States -based Kenyan songwriter won $25,000 in cash as well as various other prizes.

The International Songwriting Competition (ISC) also announced other winners of the competition, a diverse group of talented songwriters from across the globe.

The fact that, aside from the winner of the Grand Prize, many other songwriters excel in their respective genres is testament to the high calibre of submissions received.

This year’s competition received entries in 24 categories, including Pop/Top 40, Rock, Folk/Singer-Songwriter, R&B/Soul, Rap/Hip-Hop, Country, Jazz, and more.

The winners, who hail from across the globe (53 per cent of this year’s winners come from outside the USA) and representing diverse cultures, range from talented amateurs to seasoned songwriting veterans.

“Ondara’s music is a true reflection of the diversity and richness of the human experience. His ability to convey authentic, complex emotions through his lyrics and music is truly remarkable. We are extremely excited about this artist, and it is such an honor to award the ISC Grand Prize to him,” Candace Avery, ISC Founder and Director, said.

Responding to the announcement, Ondara noted: “I am very humbled and speechless. I don’t really have the right words at this moment, but I am extremely grateful.”

His winning entry, “An Alien In Minneapolis,” one of the songs in his third album, The Spanish Villager No. 3, is a powerful and emotive piece that describes his real-life experience of relocating to America and being an outsider in a foreign place. His work showcases his masterful songwriting skills and reflects a deep understanding of the human condition as well as the power of music to connect people from diverse backgrounds.

Omdara’s grass-to-grace story is inspirational. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, he grew up listening to rock songs on his sister’s battery-operated radio. Inspired by Nirvana, Jeff Buckley, and most notably Bob Dylan, he fell in love with music despite the fact that his family couldn’t afford to buy him a musical instrument. After winning the green card lottery, he relocated to Minneapolis, MN to pursue a music career.

He taught himself to play guitar and started performing at open mic nights and small venues. His big break came when a local radio station played one of his songs, pulling the audio from his YouTube channel.

In 2019, he released his debut album, Tales of America (Verve Label Group), depicting an immigrant’s life in America. The album charted on Billboard and was nominated for Best Americana album at the 62nd Grammy Awards. His second album, Folk n Roll, Vol 1: Tales of Isolation was released in 2020, followed by The Spanish Villager No. 3 in 2022.

The annual competition, which is known for recognizing emerging and established songwriters, received more than 15,000 entries from 150 countries. Winners were selected by a judging panel made up of well-known celebrity artists and industry professionals.

Founded in 2002, ISC is recognized as one of the most respected and prestigious songwriting competitions in the world. Winning ISC is a significant accomplishment for any songwriter as it provides recognition, exposure, and potential opportunities for their music to be heard by a wider audience. Additionally, it validates the songwriter as well as reward them for the hard work and talent that goes into creating music.

ISC winners have gone on to achieve great success. They include Vance Joy, Bastille, Tones and I, Gotye, Illenium, Fantastic Negrito, Lindsey Stirling, The Teskey Brothers, Passenger, Bastille, The Band Perry, and many more.

ISC is sponsored by: AGD Entertainment; Arturia; Audeze; BSquared Management; Eventric; Gibson; Lewitt Audio; Lurseen Mastering; Play MPE, PreSonus, Protégé; SongU; Ultimate Ears Pro; and Wondershare Filmora.

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