Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo won one of Europe’s top music prizes along with Britain’s Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, and Estonian composer Arvo Part.
The five-times Grammy winner, described by the organisers of Sweden’s Polar Music Prize as “one of the greatest singer-songwriters in international music”, sings her in native Fon and Yoruba languages as well as in French and English.
Past winners include Paul McCartney (1992), Elton John (1995), Stevie Wonder (1999), Björk (2010), and Sting (2017).
Dubbed “Africa’s premier diva” by Time magazine, she is best known for her hits “Agolo” and “We We”.
Blackwell founded the Island Records label in Jamaica that went on to sign such legendary stars as Bob Marley, Cat Stevens, Roxy Music and U2.
Estonia’s Arvo Part, who the jury described as “the world’s most performed living composer”, was highlighted for his “unique compositional technique, tintinnabuli” which he invented in the 1970s.
The Polar Music Prize was founded in 1989 by former ABBA manager Stig Anderson and last year honoured Iggy Pop and US songwriter Diane Warren.
Kidjo will join only two previous recipients from the African continent: South Africa’s Miriam Makeba in 2002, and Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour in 2013. Honored alongside the songtress this year will be Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records in the UK, and Arvo Pärt of Estonia, the world’s most performed living composer, according to a Polar Music Prize press release.
“To be awarded the Polar Music Prize is humbling,” Kidjo says in the release. “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.”
The laureates will receive their 600,000 Swedish kroner ($58,000) prize at a ceremony in Stockholm on May 23.