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Germany’s Echo Awards axed amid antisemitism row

Germany's top music prize is no more, following an outcry by artists and Jewish groups over the decision to honour 'antisemitic' rappers Farid Bang and Kollegah

By Jon Chapple on 25 Apr 2018

Farid Bang (left) and Kollegah at the Echo Awards

Farid Bang (left) and Kollegah at the Echo Awards in Berlin

image © Echo Music Prize

The Echo Music Prize, the German recording industry’s highest accolade, will not return in 2018, organisers have announced, amid a controversy over antisemitism that has left the awards’ reputation “so badly damaged that a completely new beginning is necessary”.

The Echos were criticised worldwide after handing the 2018 award for best hip-hop/urban album to rappers Farid Bang and Kollegah for 2017’s Jung, brutal, gutaussehend 3. The album includes a song, ‘0815’, where the two rap about their bodies being “more defined than Auschwitz prisoners,” while another line says they’re planning “another Holocaust, coming with a molotov”.

Additionally, the ceremony honouring Bang (real name Farid El Abdellaoui), of Moroccan origin, and Kollegah (Felix Blume), a Muslim convert, took place on 12 April, International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah).

The awards were greeted with outcry by Jewish groups, including the International Auschwitz Committee and the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and number of previous awards winners have since given back their Echos, including conductors Daniel Barenboim, Christian Thielemann and Enoch zu Guttenberg, singer Marius Müller-Westernhagen, pianist Igor Levit and record producer Klaus Voormann

Campino, lead singer of acclaimed German punk band Die Toten Hosen, also criticised the duo’s win in his acceptance speech, and received a standing ovation from the crowd.

The row comes at a time of heightened concern over the resurgence of antisemitism in Germany, after a man wearing skullcap was attacked by a Syrian in Berlin last Wednesday.

“The Echo brand is so badly damaged a completely new beginning is necessary”

Jewish organisations in Germany have also expressed concern over a rise in the bullying of Jews in schools, which has been condemned by chancellor Angela Merkel as “another form of antisemitism”.

Florian Druecke, chairman of the BVMI (Bundesverband Musikindustrie, Federal Music Industry Association), said last week it had been a mistake to give the award to El Abdellaoui and Blume and apologised to Germany’s Jews and “anyone else whose feelings were hurt by this”.

But the damage had been done: In a statement released today, the BVMI says the awards have, by their association with the rappers, been tainted with “antisemitism, contempt for women, homophobia and the promotion of violence” and must be brought to an end.

Unlike the main Echo Awards – whose nominees were largely based on sales – sister prizes Echo Klassik and Echo Jazz are decided solely by a jury, the statement continues, and the new pop music prize should be, too. The BVMI will invite input from the industry as to the format of the replacement awards, as well as the make-up of the jury, in January.

Echo Jazz will go ahead as planned on 31 May, it concludes, but will no longer be broadcast on television: “The focus will be on the artists and their music.”


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