Indigenous artists brought the heat and took home the accolades at this year’s ARIA Awards, with names like the Kid LAROI and Budjerah dominating the ceremony.

The 35th annual ARIA Awards were held at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo and live-streamed on YouTube, with most performances and acceptance speeches pre-recorded to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.

This year’s awards were also the first in the event history to dispose of gender-based categories.

19-year old Coodjinburra man Budjerah Slabb, known as Budjerah, took home the Michael Gudinski Breakthrough Artist Award for his self-titled EP.

Budjerah hails from Fingal head in New South Wales and released his debut single in October 2020. His work is a mixture of soul, gospel and pop, with lo-fi sounds shining through.

As well as taking home a trophy, Budjerah was nominated for the Best Artist, Best Soul/R&B Release, Best Video, and Best Australian Live Act awards.

Iconic Gunditjmara and Bundjalung artist Archie Roach’s album Songs of Charcoal Lane won Best Blues and Roots Album, a segment that was contested by Indigenous vocalist Emma Donovan and Melbourne rhythm combo The Putbacks’ album Crossover.

Donovan is a member of the Donovan family, a well-known Indigenous musical dynasty. Over her career, the 40-year-old has performed with Indigenous musicians such as Frank Yamma, her cousin Casey Donovan, Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter, Kerriane Cox, Christine Anu, Tiddas, Yothu Yindi, and Jimmy Little.

Donovan was also nominated for the Best Independent Release award.

2018 Unearthed High finalist Charlton Howard, known by his stage name The Kid LAROI, took home the ARIAs for Best Artist and Best Pop Release for Stay, his collaboration with Justin Beiber.

Howard was also nominated for Best Hip Hop Release and Song of the Year.

23-year-old independent Ghanian Australian artist Genesis Owusu and his album Smiling with No Teeth was another notable figure at the awards, taking home an impressive four ARIAs on Wednesday night, including Album Of The Year, Best Hip Hop Release, Best Independent Release, Best Cover Art, and contesting the Best Artist and  Best Australian Live Act categories as well.

Zimbabwean-born Australian singer-songwriter and rapper Tkay Maidza was nominated for best video and won Best Soul/R&B release, beating out Budjerah and Tash Sultana for the accolade

RÜFÜS DU SOL took home the Best Dance Release and Best Group categories for Alive.

Despite being nominated for six different awards, musician Amy Shark didn’t place in any of the categories.

The Best Rock Album category was taken by Middle Kids for Today We’re The Greatest, and Crowded House defeated Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave for Best Adult Contemporary Album.

By Sarah Smit