N'Dour, Saariaho share Sweden's Polar Music Prize

AP News
Posted: May 07, 2013 10:00 AM

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour and Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho have been awarded the international 2013 Polar Music Prize, Sweden's most prestigious award for musicians.

They will each receive 1 million kronor ($153,300) and an invitation to the prize ceremony in Stockholm Aug. 27.

In its awarding citation on Tuesday, the prize committee said 53-year-old N'Dour, who has collaborated with artists including Sting, Bruce Springsteen and Neneh Cherry, has a voice that "encompasses an entire continent's history and future, blood and love, dreams and power."

The committee praised him for preserving an oral record of tribal history in the tradition of West African griots.

"A West African griot is not just a singer, but a storyteller, poet, singer of praise, entertainer and verbal historian. Youssou N'Dour is maintaining the griot tradition and has shown that it can also be changed into a narrative about the entire world," the committee said.

"With his exceptionally exuberant band Super Étoile de Dakar (Dakar star) and his musically groundbreaking and political solo albums Youssou N'Dour has worked to reduce animosities between his own religion, Islam, and other religions."

The committee described 60-year-old Saariaho as a unique composer "who re-examines what music can be" by combining acoustic instruments with electronics and computers.

"She has written chamber music, orchestral works and operas," it said in a statement. "Kaija Saariaho is a modern maestro who opens up our ears."

The award, founded in 1989 by the late Stig Anderson, manager of Swedish pop group ABBA, has been handed out every year since 1992 and is typically shared by a pop artist and a classical musician. Previous laureates include artists Patti Smith, Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell and bands such as Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.