Hip hop trio Hilltop Hoods won two awards at the inaugural Australian Independent Record Labels Assn. chart awards, held Wednesday (Nov. 29) at the Blacket Hotel in Sydney.

The South Australia act took out independent artist of the year while its "The Hard Road" (Obese) won for performing independent album.

In March this year, "The Hard Road", its fourth album, debuted at No. 1 on the Australian Recording Industry Assn. (ARIA) chart, becoming the first domestic hip hop album to do so. It also stayed at top spot on the V Energy AIR chart for 22 weeks.

Also at the ceremony, Afro-reggae band Blue King Brown won best performing single/EP for its self-titled EP on Roots Level Records. The record stayed in the AIR Top 20 for 42 weeks.

The most outstanding new independent artist gong went to Goyte, otherwise known as 26-year old Wally De Backer. The artist wrote, produced and played most of the instruments on his "Like Drawing Blood" (Creative Vibes). The album, recorded in his bedroom, spent 17 weeks in the AIR Top 5 after its May release.

The awards were launched to heighten the profile of the AIR charts and exploit them on mainstream TV and radio. Launched in 2000, the weekly list covers singles/EPs and albums on independent labels, while a monthly chart covers electronica/dance, jazz and blues/roots. The charts are syndicated through music magazines, trade publications and college radio stations to a reach of 250,000 consumers, AIR claims.

The AIR charts differ from ARIA charts because they focus on 100% Australian artists, represented by Australian independent labels.

AIR chairman David Vodicka, who is also managing director of Melbourne-based Rubber Records, said, "At a time when market concentration by the major multinationals is critically high, it is of utmost importance that AIR is able to provide a platform for independent labels and artists to the public and media."

He added, "The AIR Charts Awards will ultimately grow into an integral event on the Australian music calendar and assist provide a fertile ground for new and evolving breakthrough Australian artists."