“The Polar Music Prize of 1 million Swedish Kronor, is given to each of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to support their national music culture, as a nucleus for the formation of performing rights societies in international co-operation.”

Chapter: Unique award


When Stig Anderson founded the Polar Music Prize in the early ‘90s, he decided it should be awarded to individuals, groups and institutions in recognition of exceptional achievements in music and/or musical life – and “for achievements which are believed to be of great potential importance for the advancement of music and/or musical life.” The three Baltic States; Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, are to this date the only institutional Laureates.

"Our Story" - a short story told by three young people from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, who have experienced living in the Soviet Union, and in the independent countries. In their own languages with some English translation. By Lasma Kanele (2009)
Chapter: Three states

Three states

To understand the significance and the background of the award, one needs to go back to the winter and spring of 1991-92. At that time, the three nations had only existed for six months. They declared their new independence in March 1990 (Lithuania) and in August 1991 (Estonia and Latvia) and had legally elected governments. The Soviet Union officially recognized the three Baltic States on September 6, 1991.

Mikk Targo, chairman of Estonian performing rights society EAU in 1992. Still in office. (Photo: Bo Lindqvist)
Kavel Rattus, Director of Estonian performing rights society EAU beside the Polar Music Prize Diploma from 1992. (Photo: Mikael Nilsson, 2012)
Bronius Leonavicius, chairman of Lithuanian performing rights society LATGA in 1992. (Photo: Bo Lindqvist)
Chapter: Recognition


“Aside from the financial support, the Polar Music Prize had a most encouraging effect showing that there was a trust in our future and that Estonian Authors’ Society was considered being – or rather to be – a collecting society capable of performing the same functions like any other European society”, says the Managing Director of EAU, Kavel Rattus today. “Yes, the financial support and the moral recognition were the two biggest values”, agrees Edmundas Vaitekunas, Director of the Lithuanian copyright management association LATGA-A in 1992 and until recently. “You have to understand”, says Kavel Rattus, “that our copyright law was enforced only 6 months later, there was anarchy on the music market and piracy prevailed.” Together with Latvian author’s society AKKA-LAA, these newly founded rights societies were the real recipients of the Polar Music Prize – since it was awarded “to support their national music culture, as a nucleus for the formation of performing rights societies in international co-operation”.

Chapter: Aid and assistance

Aid and assistance

The Prize money was trusted by the Swedish Performing Rights Society STIM, who administered payouts, bit by bit, during two years. They also gave professional advice and support to the Baltic societies. “It was the beginning of a good partnership with STIM”, says Kavel Rattus of EAU. “Not only should we manage the economic rights of authors and composers in our own country, but also taking care of the interests of our sister societies throughout the world in our territory.”

Artwork by Bronius Leonavicius picturing the Lithuanian performing rights society LATGA-A in the international environment Source: LATGA-A

All three Baltic societies are members of CISAC (International Federation of Societies of Authors and Composers) and the European group GESAC. “The Polar Music Prize also meant very practical aid and assistance to the Baltic societies”, remembers Bo Lindqvist of STIM. “I travelled a lot in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in 1992-93 and visited the three societies. I could see the need of very basic equipment, besides the need for structural support.

The Board of Lithuanian LATGA, June 1992 (Photo: Bo Lindqvist)
Old style index of musical works, Lithuania 1992 (Photo: Bo Lindqvist)
Everyday reality in the office, 1992 (Photo: Bo Lindqvist)
Chapter: Latvian music

Latvian music

What do we know about the music in the three Baltic states? Most people around the world, possibly very little. What all three countries have in common is the strong position for choral music, for singing. Some of the world’s largest song festivals are held in Vilnius, Tallinn and not least in Riga. The All-Latvian Song and Dance Festival has been held here since 1873, normally every five years.

Latvian band Prata Vetra (Brain Storm) Source: AKKA/LAA

Approximately 30,000 performers participate in the event. Traditionally, folksongs and classical choir songs are sung, with emphasis on a cappella singing, but in recent years modern popular songs have been incorporated into the repertoire. During the Soviet coaching, rock music was extremely popular, because it, as well as folk songs, offered a chance to rebel against the local authorities. Jazz has had a strong foothold in this part of Europe. Now, the popular music scene is dominated by pop music and alternative rock.

A few of the more than 10,000 singers that performed in the grand choir at the Latvian Song and Dance Festival in Riga 2008 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Dainis Matisons)
The song "Flashlight" with Latvian band Prata Vetra (Brain Strom) from the Russian 3D computer-animated film "The Snow Queen" (2012)
Eurovision Song Contest winner 2002 in Tallinn Estonia; Marie N (Marija Naumova) representing Latvia with her song "I Wanna."
From the huge Latvian Song and Dance Festival in Riga, 2008. More than 10,000 singers perform "Manai dzimtenei" (To My Homeland) with popular composer Raimonds Pauls at the piano.
Latvian music, from traditional and classical to contemporary
Chapter: Estonian music

Estonian Music

There is a movement in Estonia, as well as in Latvia and Lithuania, with more and more alternative rock bands and artists singing in English in a personal, poetic style – to some extent rooted in their national music culture but at the same time with an international appeal. Ewert and the Two Dragons is a successful example. At the Estonian Music Awards 2012 they won “Band of the year”, “Album of the year” and “Song of the year” (for 2011). One of the most famous contemporary classical composers in Europe is from Estonia; Arvo Pärt (b. 1935) – although he left his country many years ago because of struggle with the Soviet authorities. He now lives in Berlin. The Eurovision Song Contest kind of music has a strong foothold in Estonia, too, as has heavy rock. But as Estonia and the other Baltic countries become more and more part of a European and global society, all genres and styles are represented on the Estonian music scene.

Siiri Sisask, Estonian musician, singer and actress (Photo: cdonline.ee)
Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Ewert and The Two Dragons in "Good Man Down" (2011), the song for which they won "Song of the year" at Estonian Music Awards in 2012.
"A Far Cry" - Cantus in Memorian Benjamin Britten" by Arvo Pärt, performed at Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory in Boston MA
Siiri Sisask and choirs perform her own popular song "Mis maa see on?" (What kind of country is this?). Lyrics by Peeter Volonski (2011)
Estonian music, from traditional and classical to contemporary
Chapter: Lithuanian Music

Lithuanian Music

The examples of Lithuanian contemporary music are typical of the evolution of music in countries previously isolated, and now democracies in a global world. You cannot really say that it’s typical Lithuanian music. Still it is. At least it is composed and performed by musicians and artists living in Lithuania, but now moving freely around the world. Mario Basonov (Marijus Adomaitis) makes ambient, house and dance music that is universal. Alina Orlova (Orlovskaya, b. 1988) is a sung poetry musician of Polish-Russian heritage who performs in three languages; English, Russian and French. Gediminas Gelgotas (b. 1986) is a Lithuanian composer, conductor and performing artist. In 2006, he founded the ensemble NI&Co (New Ideas Chamber Orchestra) to realize his musical and conceptual ideas. His works are performed in concert halls in Latvia, Russia, Ukraine, Germany and Great Britain – besides Lithuania.

The open stage for the traditional song and dance festival (Dainų šventė) in Vingis Park, Vilnius (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
View in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania (Photo: Vilnius Tourist Information Centre)
Sung poetry and musician Alina Orlova (Alina Orlovskaya) (Photo: last.fm)
Mario Basonov (Marijus Adomaitis) & Vidis, feat. Jazzu in "I'll Be Gone" (2008). Video from Silence Music.
Music video for Gediminas Gelgotas piece "Never Ignore Cosmic Ocean". Performed by New Ideas Chamber Orchestra NI&Co, artistic director Gediminas Gelgotas. March 2012.
Alina Orlova (Alina Orlovskaya) in "From Brooklyn to Russia with Love."
Lithuanian music, from traditional and classical to contemporary
Chapter: The first polar music prize ceremony

Stockholm, May 1992

The founder of the Polar Music Prize, Stig “Stikkan” Anderson”, interviewed outside concert hall Berwaldhallen, just before the first Prize Ceremony (Photo: © Polar Music Prize)
The Baltic Laureates together with HM King Carl XVI Gustaf, Queen Silvia and Stig & Gudrun Anderson, before the ceremony (Photo: © Polar Music Prize)
Estonian children's choir outside Berwaldhallen
Anders Öhman from the Swedish Royal Academy of Music explains the idea of The Polar Music Prize (in Swedish).
The three Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania receive the Polar Music Prize from HM King Carl XVI Gustaf