Kenyan Artist Ondara Earns Top Prize at International Songwriting Competition

The International Songwriting Competition (ISC) has announced the winners of its 2022 competition, awarding top honors to a diverse group of talented songwriters from around the world. 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 to be one of the most respected and prestigious songwriting competitions in the world. Winning ISC is a significant accomplishment for a songwriter as it provides recognition, exposure, and potential opportunities for their music to be heard by a wider audience. Additionally, it serves as validation to the songwriter for the hard work and talent that goes into creating music.

ISC has awarded the gifted singer/songwriter Ondara its highest honor, the 2022 overall Grand Prize. Originally from Kenya but now residing in the United States, the Grammy-nominated artist Ondara wins $25K in cash, as well as various other prizes.

Upon learning that he is this year’s Grand Prize winner, Ondara said, “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,” is from his third album, The Spanish Villager No. 3, and is a powerful and emotive piece that describes his true-life experience of moving 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 and the power of music to connect people from different backgrounds.

Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Ondara grew up listening to rock songs on his sister’s battery-operated radio. Inspired by Nirvana, Jeff Buckley, and most notably Bob Dylan, Ondara 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 moved to Minneapolis, MN to pursue a career in music. 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, his debut album, Tales of America (Verve Label Group), was released, 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.

For a complete list of winners and to listen to the winning songs, please visit the ISC website at www.songwritingcompetition.com/winners.

The complete panel of 2022 judges includes:

Recording Artists:  Coldplay; Gloria Estefan; Tom Waits; Joe Hahn (Linkin Park); Jeremiah Fraites (The Lumineers); Brantley Gilbert; Kristian Bush (Sugarland); James Adam Shelley (American Authors); NEEDTOBREATHE; Ian Felice (The Felice Brothers); Lonnie Liston Smith; Sara Evans; Rosanne Cash; Sidewalk Prophets; Steve Lillywhite; Nancy Wilson (Heart); Krewella; Glen Ballard; ACRAZE; Danilo Perez; Above & Beyond; Chayanne; Jack DeJohnette; Tim Rice-Oxley (Keane); Dave Koz; James McNally; Jordan St. Cyr; Gordon Goodwin; Chris August; Ashwin Batish; Carter Burwell; and Nicholas Gunn