The Polar Music Prize was created in 1989 by Stikkan Andersson, the manager of the Swedish super pop group ABBA. It's awarded to individuals and groups in recognition of exception achievements in music. It's kind of a musical Nobel Prize, carrying with it a cash award of one million Swedish kronor, that's just over 120 thousand US dollars, and presented by Sweden's King Carl Gustav in a special ceremony at Stockholm's Concert House. That's where the Nobel Prize ceremony is held every December.
Past winners include Paul McCartney, Elton John, Ravi Shankar, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.
There are usually two winners every year, one from the world of pop and rock, and the other involved in classical music. That's also the case this year, but the 2009 winners have also shown a strong social dimension.
Peter Gabriel founded the group Genesis back in the 70's before going on to a solo career.
But he's also been a tireless advocate of world music, founding the world music festival Womad and the label Real World, and touring for Amnesty International. The Polar Prize citation says Peter Gabriel's music has been a megaphone for global society, as well as its most unflinching critic.
Peter Gabriel shares the Polar Prize with Venezuelan conductor, composer, and economist José Antonio Abreu. He founded the Simón Bolivar orchestra, as part of the music network El Sistema in Venezuela, aimed at giving hundreds of thousands of children in his country tools to leave poverty. Swedish Radio's Andreas Lindahl says El Sistema is an incredible success and somewhat of the classical music world's wet dream, where an entire generation in a country can find the right path in life with the help of violins and trumpets.