Just in: Polar Music Prize goes to… Afghanistan

Just in: Polar Music Prize goes to… Afghanistan


norman lebrecht

February 14, 2018

The $100,000+ Polar Music Prize, awarded annually to one highbrow and one mass-market act, has been announced today.

The serious winner is the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM).

The pop winner is Metallica.



  • Caravaggio says:

    Yet another utterly meaningless prize, we see. Metallica is the recipient of the Polar?

    • Neil van der Linden says:

      ‘awarded annually to one highbrow and one mass-market act’
      Metallica is a mass-market act… Whether you, or I, like it/them, or not.

  • Rgiarola says:

    Hellyahh Metallica! Mass market without support of any MTV, VH1, radio, record label or similar during the first decade of their career.

    I can see in the last decade, many ones here trying to sell as serious artist Dudamel, Lang lang and others with too much support of all kind of media, but at the end they are in fact the biggest meaningless mass market pop act. It is just funny to see any criticism about Metallica here, in this case. They are for rock music as much as Arthur Rubinstein was for classical piano. A classic top-notch standard for all others coming after then. Anyone got the right to dislike any kind of music, but if you at least respect rock stop bullshiting the mastes of puppets.

    • Christopher Culver says:

      Metallica was to some degree an underground thing as the way to the 1990s as far as mainstream radio and music-video TV went. However, to claim that it had no support from a record label for its whole first decade is crazy. The band was founded in 1981, and they issued their first album on the major label Elektra already in 1986. Master of Puppets got reviewed in Rolling Stone and Spin upon its release, which was probably the result of the record label pushing its act.

      • Christopher Culver says:

        Sorry, I meant to type “all the way to the 1990s”.

      • Rgiarola says:

        Only the third album released by a major label, but not one of the biggest ones. Elektra was still Krasnow company in 86, not yet part of the Warner group. Evendough without any music video or music playing openly in any radio, besides specific cases of underground context. “One” was release as a video on 88, 7 years later, but It was not before black album in 1991 that Metallica started to be a major mass market act as it is until today. Before 1991 Metallica was more or less a little bigger than Slayer or Megadeth, but Iron Maiden has much more commercial success during the 80’s for example. Today the 3 examples cannot reach Metallica sales figures at all. Perhaps not even together.

        However the point here was to criticize people claiming issues with mass market acts, while they are huge supporters of the biggest pop stars of classical music. Most of then pure media invention, and without all MKT since the begining they would not be so famous. At least not just by their own talent like Metallica did.

  • Scotty says:

    For Slippeddisc readers bereft of Metallica knowledge, I recommend the wonderful documentary “Some Kind of Monster.” It’s fantastic, even for people with little interest in popular music.

  • Martin Anderson says:

    Never mind Metallica. For the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (indeed, for the country as a whole, this is major news). If you go to https://toccataclassics.com/product/sadie-harrison-the-rosegarden-of-light/, you can hear the kids of ANIM performing some really catchy traditional Afghan music and some lovely pieces by western composers (not least Sadie Harrison) based on Afghan tunes. And if you don’t buy the CD or a download, at least download the booklet and read the ANIM story — one of heroic triumph over considerable adversity. Our releases on Toccata Classics usually feature the music of the archetypical white western male composer, but we were proud to break with our own convention to bring this release out, and even prouder to see ANIM — and its brave founder, Dr Ahmad Sarmast — recognised with this award.

    • Neil van der Linden says:

      Yes. I have visited the institute and I was impressed, and moved, by the dedication of all students, teachers and Mr Sarmast, the founder. The level was high. Moreover what I liked is that the institute expressly created opportunities for young women, including from the traditionally marginalised, if not harassed, Hazara community. The institute felt like a home, and the whole attitude of the institute including the musical skills that were taught contributed to a probably much needed self-confidence of all participants. As I understood Mr Sarmast was always actively seeking for funds to support students that otherwise would not be able to enroll, including providing lodging. Mr Sarmast was severely wounded in an attack that took place during a concert in the French institute in Kabul. I remember reading that his hearing abilities are still affected. The institute is a safehaven and I hope it will remain safe.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      I’m not sure we do the Afghans any good when providing them with knowledge about, and means to practice, Western music, or even playing their own music with Western instruments. They became a definite target for the Taliban, IS and similar groups.

      • Neil van der Linden says:

        I would be against blind occidentalising too, but the institute teaches Western and regional Afghan instruments. Western instruments have become global, so there is not that much wrong with that. Abandoning Western instruments because of possible threats from the side of the Taliban or IS would mean a victory for the Taliban and IS. Both object mostly to women participating in education and public life anyway, and as the Hazaras are shiite, they try to eradicate Hazaras anyway.

    • Ladislaus Horatius says:

      “Archetypical white western male composer” sounds like a PC put-down, but these males often were the defenders of Yin qualities (“kvinnliga värden”) when regarded in a broad perspective. Chopin was a much more feminine composer than Bacewicz.

      • Martin Anderson says:

        If you are looking on the western classical tradition from the outside, I doubt that the niceties of differences of personality will be what you notice. I think there’s a very simple explanation of the preponderance of men over women composers, kvinnilge eller inte: women exhibit autistic behaviour to only 10% the rate of men. I go into the idea a little on the Toccata blog, here: https://toccataclassics.com/where-are-the-women-composers/.

  • Richard Zencker says:

    For what it’s worth, Metallica was the band that sued Napster in 2000.