Grandmaster Flash dedicates music prize to ‘every DJ, rapper, graffiti artist’

Hip hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash, German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and music charity the Playing For Change Foundation have been awarded the prestigious Polar Music Prize.

The 2019 laureates were presented their prizes by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden during a gala ceremony and banquet in Stockholm.

The prize was founded by late Abba manager Stig Anderson in 1989 and is typically shared by a pop artist and a classical musician to recognise significant achievements in music.

Grandmaster Flash receives the Polar Music Prize (Annika Berglund/Polar Music Prize/PA)
Grandmaster Flash receives the Polar Music Prize (Annika Berglund/Polar Music Prize/PA)

Grandmaster Flash, real name Joseph Saddler, 61, said: “I come from a very small place called The Bronx… this thing that I did had not existed before and I am one of many where I come from.

“It ended up being called hip hop, taking the drum break from pop, rock, jazz, blues, funk, disco, R&B and using duplicate copies of records… I would take one section and repeat it over and over again.

“This self-made music bed served for the breakdancers, and later for the MCs… I accept this award in honour of every DJ, every rapper, every graffiti artist, every breakdancer.”

Saddler rose to prominence from the US hip hop scene in the 1970s and gained fame as one of the first artists to mix, cut and scratch records.

Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter (Annika Berglund/Polar Music Prize/PA)
Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter (Annika Berglund/Polar Music Prize/PA)

Grammy Award-winning violinist Mutter, 55, said she was “overwhelmed by the honour and acknowledgement”, and dedicated her prize to Swedish author Astrid Lindgren.

She said: “I am simply overwhelmed by the honour and acknowledgement which you, who are responsible for the Polar Music Prize, are bestowing upon me.

“This distinction fills me with pride and joy, as you are permitting me to join the ranks of the wonderful musicians who have previously received the prize.

“I admire many of them profoundly, for example Witold Lutoslawski, Sofia Gubaidulina, Ennio Morricone, Dizzy Gillespie and Mstislav Rostropovich, to name just a few.”

Of Lindgren, whose Pippi Longstocking books are a global hit, she said: “My special thanks on this day, however, are due to the incomparable Astrid Lindgren.

“Her Pippi Longstocking has been a role model for me since my childhood. Like no other literary figure, this red-haired girl showed me that females can be active and self-determined, finding their own path with creativity and wit.

“Living her own dreams and daring to be different: at the time when I first read the Pippi Longstocking stories, that was not taken for granted when it came to girls and women. And, from a global perspective, it is still not to be taken for granted.”

The honourees at the gala ceremony and banquet (Annika Berglund/Polar Music Prize/PA)
The honourees at the gala ceremony and banquet (Annika Berglund/Polar Music Prize/PA)

The Playing For Change Foundation is described as “providing music and arts education to underprivileged children around the world”.

Its co-founders, Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke, attended the ceremony.

Kroenke said: “We are so humbled to accept this award in the company of so many artists and heroes of ours, each that have inspired us and the work we do at Playing For Change.”

Johnson added: “We dedicate it (this award) to the human race. The one group we are all a part of.”

This year marked a departure, with three laureates each receiving the prize of a million Swedish kronor (around £83,000).

Previous recipients include Sir Paul McCartney, Ray Charles, Burt Bacharach, Joni Mitchell, Sir Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Cecilia Bartoli and Youssou N’Dour.