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Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM), with Founder/Director Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, and Metallica Are Announced as 2018 Polar Music Prize Laureates; Televised Award Ceremony Will Take Place in Presence of Swedish Royal Family on June 14

(London, Wed, Feb 14): The Polar Music Prize – the world’s most prestigious music award – has announced that this year’s recipients are the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) with its founder and director, Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, and Grammy Award-winning hard rock band Metallica. Now in its 27th year, the Polar Music Prize celebrates the power and importance of music. Each laureate receives prize money of one million Swedish kronor, or approximately $130,000; former laureates include Paul McCartney, Dizzy Gillespie, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Ravi Shankar, Renée Fleming, Ray Charles, Youssou N’Dour, Mstislav Rostropovich, and the Kronos Quartet. The 2018 Awards will be presented at a gala ceremony and banquet at Stockholm’s Grand Hôtel by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden on Thursday, June 14. The event will be broadcast live on Swedish national television (TV4) at 8pm CET and can be viewed throughout Europe via TV4 Play. Click here to see a video about ANIM.

Marie Ledin, managing director of the Polar Music Prize, said:

“We believe that our two recipients, although from very contrasting worlds, exemplify the mission of the Polar Music Prize, and that is to honor musicians and music organizations whose work has made a difference to people’s lives. Metallica is loved and admired by millions of hard rock fans across the globe. It has led where other bands have followed and its 2017 world tour broke all records. Dr. Ahmad Sarmast founded the Afghanistan National Institute of Music to restore the joy and power of music to children’s lives. ANIM’s work with young people and disadvantaged children is truly inspirational.”

Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, founder and director of ANIM, said:

“I’m very excited, honored, and privileged to be a recipient of the 2018 Polar Music Prize alongside the Afghanistan National Institute of Music.”

Lars Ulrich, drummer and co-founder of Metallica, said:

“Receiving the Polar Music Prize is an incredible thing; it puts us in very distinguished company. It’s a great validation of everything that Metallica has done over the last 35 years. At the same time, we feel like we’re in our prime with a lot of good years ahead of us. Thank you very much.”

The Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) was founded in 2010 by Dr. Ahmad Sarmast. It is a rare co-educational secondary school in Kabul, with a mission to teach both Western and native Afghan music, and to bring musical life back to a generation of Afghans born while music was banned by the Taliban in the 1990s. ANIM is the war-torn nation’s sole music academy, and almost half its students are war orphans. It offers one of the nation’s few alternatives for quality education of young women over the age of 13. One of the ANIM’s primary purposes is the empowerment of girls and other marginalized individuals through music. ANIM is dedicated to the education and nurturing of gifted young Afghan musicians, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or social circumstances, and aims to help them discover a vocation that will allow them to reach their full potential, while contributing to their emotional healing.

Dr. Ahmad Sarmast is a native of Afghanistan and son of the late well-known Afghan composer, conductor, and musician Ustad Salim Sarmast. A Research Fellow of the School of Music-Conservatorium and Monash Asia Institute of Monash University; an Honorary Fellow of the National College of Music & Arts, London; and an Honorary Member of UK’s Royal Philharmonic Society, Dr. Sarmast is the founder of ANIM. He received his PhD in music from Monash University, Australia, in 2005 and his MA in musicology/ethno-musicology from the Moscow State Conservatory in 1993. He has been conducting research on the music of Afghanistan since 1993, resulting in the landmark book A Survey of the History of Music in Afghanistan. His research areas also include the music of North India, Central Asia, and Iran. His report “Music in Afghanistan Today” provided the framework upon which the Revival of Afghan Music project (ROAM) was developed; ROAM became the basis for ANIM.

Dr. Sarmast has received accolades including the International Music Council (IMC) Music Rights Award, in recognition of assuring the musical rights of the Afghan children; a Cultural Heritage Rescue Prize from UNESCO; and the Asia Society’s “2016 Game Changers” Award. In December 2009, Dr. Sarmast received the David Chow Humanitarian Award in recognition of his “brave and selfless” efforts to rebuild and promote music education in Afghanistan. In 2011, the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan acknowledged Dr. Sarmast’s contribution by awarding him the Education Award of the Government of Afghanistan. Recently, he was a finalist for Australian of the Year and was named Person of the Year by Radio Azadi.

The Polar Music Prize citation for ANIM and Dr. Ahmad Sarmast said:

“The 2018 Polar Music Prize is awarded to the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) and Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, its visionary founder and director, in recognition of how this inspirational organization has used the power of music to transform young people’s lives. In the 1990s, Afghanistan’s rich musical heritage, which thrived for centuries, was abruptly halted by the civil war and, from 1996 until 2001, music was forbidden and silenced throughout the country. In 2008, Dr. Sarmast, the son of a famous conductor, returned to Kabul, at great personal risk, to establish ANIM. ANIM, a decade on, flourishes and is committed to preserving Afghanistan’s rich musical heritage and to providing a safe learning environment for hundreds of boys and girls.”

Metallica was formed in 1981 by drummer Lars Ulrich and guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield. The band is one of the most influential and commercially successful rock acts in history, having sold 110 million albums worldwide, with 1991’s Metallica (commonly referred to as The Black Album) achieving sales of nearly 17 million copies in the United States alone, making it the best-selling album in the history of SoundScan. Metallica has garnered numerous honors, including nine Grammy Awards, two American Music Awards, and multiple MTV Video Music Awards. The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in 2009. Its most recent album, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, was released on November 18, 2016 on its own Blackened Recordings label, and debuted at No. 1 around the world, selling more than 800,000 copies in its first week.

The Polar Music Prize citation for Metallica said:

“The 2018 Polar Music Prize is awarded to the American band Metallica. No one has defined the power of Metallica’s music better than the band itself, in its lyrics: ‘Sound is ripping through your ears, the deafening sound of metal nears.’ Not since Wagner’s emotional turmoil and Tchaikovsky’s cannons has anyone created music that is so physical and furious, and yet still so accessible. Through virtuoso ensemble playing and its use of extremely accelerated tempos, Metallica has taken rock music to places it had never been before. In Metallica’s world, both a teenage bedroom and a concert hall can be transformed into a Valhalla. The strength of the band’s uncompromising albums has helped millions of listeners to transform their sense of alienation into a superpower.”

About the Polar Music Prize:

The Polar Music Prize was founded in 1989 by the late Stig “Stikkan” Anderson, a true legend in the history of Swedish popular music. Stig Anderson was the publisher, lyricist, and manager of ABBA, and he played a key role in the group’s enormous success. The name of the prize stems from Anderson’s legendary record label, Polar Music. The Polar Music Prize celebrates the power and importance of music, and is awarded to individuals, groups, or institutions for the international recognition of excellence in the world of music. The roll call of former laureates reads like a who’s who of music: Paul McCartney, Dizzy Gillespie, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Ravi Shankar, Renée Fleming, Ray Charles, Youssou N’Dour, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Kronos Quartet, to name but a few. The Polar Music Prize awards two laureates in order to celebrate music in all its various forms and to emphasize the original intention of the Polar Music Prize: to break down musical boundaries by bringing together people from all the different worlds of music.

Laureates are selected by the Polar Music Prize Award Committee. This twelve-member committee receives nominations from the public as well as from the International Music Council, the NGO founded by UNESCO to promote geographical and musical diversity.

Click here to download the announcement video and photos.

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© 21C Media Group, February 2018

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