Former Island Records boss Chris Blackwell is among three recipients of the 2023 Polar Music Prize, an award deemed one of the most prestigious and unique music prizes in the world. It recognises individuals, groups and institutions for “exceptional achievements.”

Along with the Island Records founder, Beninese-French singer Angélique Kidjo and Estonian composer will also be honored in the presence of the Swedish Royal Family at the Polar Music Prize Gala on May 23 at Stockholm’s Grand Hotel in Sweden.  

The three will receive a cash prize of 600,00 Swedish kronor (approx. $58,000 U.S.).

The Polar Music Prize described Blackwell as a record producer and genuine music lover, and one of the key figures in the development of popular music for half a century.

“When Island Records was founded in Jamaica in 1959, he began his mission to introduce the world to ska and reggae. In folk, rock and disco, he has invested in uncompromising artists and helped them become the best version of themselves. Never focusing on sales figures, but on the songs and albums as works of art. Chris Blackwell has expanded the world and abolished border controls between genres,” a Polar Instagram post read.  

Excited Reggae music fans also concurred with the description of Blackwell and his modus operandi at Island Records.

“The last 65 years, there are only a few labels in the music industry, which represent rather an institution than a money driven operation – Island Records is one of them: THANKS,” mankay_02 noted.

“Thank You for introducing Bob Marley to the world,” another fan added.

Blackwell’s co-awardee, Angélique Kidjo was described as “a unique and unstoppable” singer and songwriter.   The two have an interesting history, having met for the first time ever in Paris in the 1990s, where Blackwell, it is said, was impressed by Kidjo’s unique sound and became the producer for one of her albums.

Kidjo, who speaks and sings in five languages: Fon, French, Yorùbá, Goun and English, teamed up with Ziggy Marley in 2020 for the children-centred single Jambo, which was sung in Swahili, 13 years after their Sedjedo collab in 2007.

“Angélique grew up in Cotonou, surrounded by the dynamic Beninese culture and listening to music from all over the world: soul, jazz, reggae, afrobeat, pop, classical. When a communist dictatorship tried to silence her, she moved to Paris and became even more active,” her citation stated.

“Angélique Kidjo invented the word batonga, a response to those who think girls don’t belong in schools, and runs the Batonga Foundation, which seeks out girls and provides them with education. Bono has said of her, ”In Africa’s new morning, Angélique Kidjo is the warmth of the rising sun”,” it added.

The Polar Music Prize was founded in 1989 by the late publisher and lyricist Stig “Stikkan” Anderson.  The award was named after Anderson’s record label, Polar Music.

Anderson, who was a former and manager of ABBA, is said to have played a key role in the quartet’s global success.  ABBA even dabbled in Reggae music in the past with Tropical Loveland, a song from their ABBA album, in 1975.

In 1989, Stig had donated 42 million Swedish Krona (US$4.14 million) towards endowing the world’s biggest music prize, for the purpose of awarding, annually if possible, The Polar Music Prize to one or more persons.

According to the organization, the task of scrutinizing the nominations and selecting the ultimate laureates is undertaken by an independent 11-member award committee made up of experienced members of the music industry, representatives from the Anderson family, musicians and previous laureates.

The committee receives nominations from the public as well as from the International Music Council which is a UNESCO- founded NGO which promotes geographical and musical diversity.

According to the by-laws, the prize, without any restrictions of nationality, must “be awarded for significant achievements in music and/or musical life, or for achievements which are believed to be of great potential importance for the advancement of music and/or musical life and shall cover all fields within music or be closely connected with it”.   

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