Youssou N’Dour, Kaija Saariaho To Receive the 2013 Polar Music Prize

Senegalese artist Youssou N’Dour and Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho are the 2013 recipients of Sweden’s prestigious Polar Music Prize.

The Prize was created and funded in 1989 by Stig Andersson, the late manager of ABBA (sometimes called ABBA's fifth member) and the founder of two music-publishing companies and a record label as well as the composer of over 3,000 songs.

King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden will present the 2013 prize to the artists at a ceremony August 27 at Stockholm Concert Hall. On the night, the pair will each be awarded one million Swedish kronor ($153,600) from a donation made by Andersson.

In a statement issued today, the awarding committee had this to say on N’Dour’s career: “With his exceptionally exuberant band Super Étoile de Dakar (Dakar star) and his musically ground breaking and political solo albums, Youssou N’Dour has worked to reduce animosities between his own religion, Islam, and other religions. His voice encompasses an entire continent’s history and future, blood and love, dreams and power."

Organizers recall how Saariaho “developed into a unique composer, a metal worker’s daughter who reexamines what music can be.” Saariaho, the statement adds, “combines acoustic instruments with electronics and computers. She has written chamber music, orchestral works and operas. Kaija Saariaho is a modern maestro who opens up our ears and causes their anvils and stirrups to fall in love."

The ceremony will be broadcast live on national television (TV4), and a recap of the gala and the Grand Hôtel banquet will be aired later in the evening.

N’Dour and Saariaho join a mind-boggling list of Polar Music Prize laureates, an elite group which includes Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie and Paul McCartney, who was one of two recipients at the inaugural ceremony in 1992.

The full list of historical Polar Music Prize recipients is below:
2012 Yo-Yo Ma and Paul Simon
2011 Kronos Quartet and Patti Smith
2010 Ennio Morricone and Björk
2009 José Antonio Abreu & El Sistema and Peter Gabriel
2008 Renée Fleming and Pink Floyd
2007 Steve Reich and Sonny Rollins
2006 Valery Gergiev and Led Zeppelin
2005 Gilberto Gil and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
2004 B.B. King and György Ligeti
2003 Keith Jarrett
2002 Sofia Gubaidulina and Miriam Makeba
2001 Burt Bacharach, Robert Moog and Karlheinz Stockhausen
2000 Bob Dylan and Isaac Stern
1999 Stevie Wonder and Iannis Xenakis
1998 Ray Charles and Ravi Shankar
1997 Eric Ericson and Bruce Springsteen
1996 Pierre Boulez and Joni Mitchell
1995 Sir Elton John and Mstislav Rostropovich
1994 Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Quincy Jones
1993 Dizzy Gillespie and Witold Lutoslawski
1992 Sir Paul McCartney and The Baltic States