Polar Music Prize

Polar Music Prize

writer icon Anton Georgiev     Polar Prize   |   Culture     🕐 15. Jun. 2018

Yesterday, 14th June 2018, the esteemed Polar Music Prize was awarded to the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) and Metallica. Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf presented the prize to the winners during a prestigious ceremony in Stockholm's Concert Hall. 


ANIM, and Dr Ahmad Sarmast, its visionary founder and director, have been awarded in recognition of how the institution has used the power of music to transform people’s lives. 

Afganistan has a huge musical heritage, which was abruptly halted when civil war broke out. Music was forbidden between 1996 and 2001. Dr Sarmast returned to Kabul in 2008 and established ANIM at a great personal risk. Now, ten years later, the institute flourishes and is preserving Afghanistan’s musical heritage and gives a safe learning environment for hundreds of boys and girls. 


Metallica is the first metal band to be given this honour. Started in 1981 by Danish musician Lars Ulrich via a newspaper ad in Los Angeles, Metallica is arguably the most well-known metal band in the world. It helped bring the emerging genre of Thrash Metal into the spotlight in the early 1980s, and through its many albums have helped millions of listeners transform their isolation and rage into a creative force of fury.

Music transcends boundaries

"Music has no boundaries. It touches, influences and changes the world." This was the belief and vision of Stig Anderson, founder of the Polar Music Prize, when he donated the 42 million SEK to establish the highly respected award. 

Anderson's philosophy was that the quality of a musical work should not be dependent on the genre, and when great musicians play together they share a universal language, even if they are unable to speak a word to each other. 

Origin of the Polar Music Prize

Anderson wanted to reward the extraordinary achievements of musicians, as well as provide a unique venue for musicians with different backgrounds. The King of Sweden has awarded the many international artists who have come to Stockholm to accept the price. In this way, Anderson’s vision has been realised. 

Anderson may not be immediately recognised on the international music scene, but his big international breakthrough actually came as the manager and lyric writer for ABBA. 

Anderson had the idea that, along with all of the other areas of excellence honoured with a Nobel Prize, music deserved one as well. He presented his idea to the Nobel Prize Committee, but it was not approved. 

Anderson decided to create a prize on his own. In 1989 he donated 42 million SEK, with the intention of creating “the world’s biggest music prize"

The first Polar Music Prize was awarded in 1992. The contemporary award went to Sir Paul McCartney and the Baltic States received the classical award. 

McCartney donated his prize money of 1 million SEK to a hospital, and to establish a Performing Arts School in Liverpool. The Baltic States received 1 million SEK towards the establishment of a performing rights organisation.

The prize is characterised by the fact that 'good music' can mean a wide variety of things, and not only in a conventional way. There are no restrictions of nationality, the prize can be awarded across all borders.

Previous recipients of the award include producer Quincy Jones, singer Elton John, film composer Ennio Morricone and the band Led Zeppelin.  

The Board

After Anderson's death in 1997, the Polar Music Prize continued to be awarded. Today the award is managed by the Stig Anderson Music Award Foundation. The Award Committee consists of twelve independent members who chose the Laureates.

Every year the Committee receives an increasing number of nominations from around the globe. Since the mid-2000s the Award Committee has links with senior advisors from previous Laureates, such as Renee Fleming and Ennio Morricone. 

From 2018, a new collaboration has been established with the International Music Council and the UNESCO founded NGO which promotes geographical and musical diversity.  

The Prize Committee
The Prize Committee is composed to mirror the broad styles of music. Members include musicians, experienced members of the industry, and members of Anderson's family. When highlighting two different musical genres, contemporary and classical musicians, the committee aims to build bridges across the musical sorts. 

Music Awards
From International Classical Music Awards to the Billboard, Brit and Grammy awards. All of them are prestigious, but they do not cover the wide variety of the Polar Music Prize. While music is not recognised by the Nobel committee, it is no wonder that the Polar Music Prize is seen by many as an equal award to the Nobel Prize. Some people do consider it to be the Nobel Prize for Music. 

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