Island Records label founder named among Polar Music Prize winners

The awards ceremony will take place on May 23 in Stockholm, Sweden.
The awards ceremony will take place on May 23 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo, record label founder Chris Blackwell and composer Arvo Part have been announced as recipients of the prestigious Polar Music Prize 2023.

The award, which is often described as the “Nobel Prize of music”, is celebrating the three laureates for their significant achievements in music.

The prize usually celebrates one contemporary and one classical laureate, however, this is third time in the prize’s history that three laureates have won, following Burt Bacharach, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Robert Moog’s win in 2001 and in 2019 with Grandmaster Flash, Anne-Sophie Mutter and the Playing For Change Foundation.

The ceremony for the award, which was first handed to Sir Paul McCartney in 1992, will take place at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 23 in the presence of the Swedish royal family.

Angelique Kidjo
Angelique Kidjo (Fabrice Mabillot/PA)

All three laureates will receive 600,000 Swedish Kroner (£47,681).

Marie Ledin, managing director of the Polar Music Prize, said: “We are delighted to honour these three laureates who have all made such a global impact with their music.

“Angelique Kidjo is an inspirational artist, she constantly explores and challenges and is one of the greatest singer-songwriters in international music.

“We are thrilled to be recognising her talent and shining a light on her important work with the Batonga Foundation.

Chris Blackwell
Chris Blackwell (David Yellen/PA)

“Chris Blackwell founded and built Island Records into one of the most successful labels in music history. He has had a huge influence on the world of music and we are delighted to be able to celebrate this.

“Arvo Part is one of the most incredible composers the world has ever seen, and his beautiful music has touched audiences around the globe. We are so happy to honour him as part of the 2023 Polar Music Prize.”

Kidjo, who has won five Grammy awards, described receiving the honour as “humbling”.

The 62-year-old said: “My passion for music has always been unwavering. Being on stage for me is like being in paradise – it’s my sanctuary.

Composer Arvo Part
Composer Arvo Part (Birgit Puve/PA) (Birgit Püve)

“It’s my place to link and to connect with my fellow human beings. That is something that I’m grateful for every day.

“To be awarded the Polar Music Prize is humbling. I have no words to say how important this is for me. It comes with a sense of responsibility that is bestowed upon me as an artist to continue to do great work.

“I will do my best to be a proud recipient of the prize through my work as a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador, on behalf of the children, and as an ambassador of music, to help create a world in which we can all live in peace.”

Meanwhile, Blackwell, 85, owner of Island Records which is known for finding talent around the world, said: “Receiving the Polar Music Prize means a huge amount.

“I feel very honoured. Scandinavia has always meant a to lot to me, from the very beginning of my career. In fact, the first record I made and sold went into market in Sweden.”

Estonian-born Arvo Part, 87, whose musical achievements include creating a unique musical language called tintinnabuli, said: “The Polar Music Prize is a very prestigious and important accolade for a composer. I am very touched and want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Previous recipients of the prize include Iggy Pop, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Chuck Berry, Ennio Morricone, Bjork, Led Zeppelin, Patti Smith, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Sir Elton John and Metallica.