Hip hop, R&B and soul acts from Australia and New Zealand get their first Urban Music Awards ceremony, held July 21 at Sydney's Homebush State Sport Centre.

Hip hop, R&B and soul acts from Australia and New Zealand get their first Urban Music Awards ceremony, held July 21 at Sydney's Homebush State Sport Centre.

Winners and nominees for the 17 categories will be gathered from public vote and conducted via www.urbanmusicawards.com.au.

Excerpts will be televised nationally on music broadcaster Channel [V] and on the Austereo radio network. Negotiations for airing the gala in New Zealand are ongoing, says organizer Jade Harley, managing director of Sydney based Qi Media. Harley co-ran the Australian Dance Music Awards from 2000 to 2003.

Nashville-based Gibson Guitar is the event's sponsor, and DJ Jazzy Jeff and Kurtis Blow have been tapped as performers and presenters.

Also performing on the night are Scribe, the Herd, Fast Crew, Jade MacRae, Israel, DJ Nino Brown, Phrase, Koolism, Weapon X & Ken Hell, Stan Bravo and Blak Genius.

"An award ceremony that specifically looks at urban music is long overdue in this part of the world, given that the sector has probably doubled in terms of participation and consumer awareness in the past four years," says Marlon Goonawardana, managing director of Melbourne's Marlin Records. Marlin is label home to rising R&B singer Daniel Merriweather, who is licensed through Mushroom/Warner, and Phrase who is licensed by Universal Music.

"Right now, Australasian urban sounds are attracting label interest from abroad. We are hoping that these awards will trigger off more support from mainstream radio," comments Israel.

The Philippines-born artist and record producer, who is signed to Roadshow Music/Sony BMG, also runs urban label and production house Nu Firm Records. His 2005 debut album "Chapter One" is set for release through Asia by Universal Music, with negotiations for release in European territories.

The awards come in the wake of MC Scribe's multi-platinum success in the Australia and New Zealand markets, the chart-topping debut in April of Adelaide-based Hilltop Hoods' "The Hard Road" (Obese Records), and the direct signing to Virgin U.S. of Perth-based urban singer songwriter Che'nelle.

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