Europe

Daniel Barenboim returns German music award in anti-Semitism row

Daniel Barenboim conducts an orchestra. File photo Image copyright EPA
Image caption Daniel Barenboim said "decency and humanity" must outweigh "commercial interests"

The Berlin-based conductor Daniel Barenboim is returning prizes he has won at Germany's biggest music awards in a row over what he said were "clearly anti-Semitic" rap lyrics.

The Israeli said he was protesting against an Echo Music Award being given to the German rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang this year.

On one track they sing that their bodies are "more defined than an Auschwitz prisoner".

The awards have faced heavy criticism.

What else does Mr Barenboim say?

In a statement, Mr Barenboim, who is also the general music director of the Berlin State Opera and the Staatskapelle Berlin, described the rappers' lyrics as "clearly anti-Semitic, misogynist, homophobic and contemptuous of human dignity".

"Decency and humanity" must outweigh "commercial interests", he said, explaining his move to return Echo Music Awards that he has won.

Mr Barenboim, who accepted honorary Palestinian citizenship in 2008, has famously set up an orchestra made up of young Arab and Israeli musicians, known as the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The orchestra has performed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

How did the row start?

The winners of the Echo Music Awards are determined annually based on the number of albums sold in the previous year.

Kollegah and Farid Bang were honoured in the Hip Hop/Urban category after selling more than 200,000 copies of their album Young, Brutal and Handsome 3.

A number of musicians, Jewish organisations and German politicians have condemned the decision to give the rappers the award.

Kollegah and Farid Bang have since said they are not anti-Semitic, inviting Jewish fans to attend their concerts for free.

The row comes at a time of growing concern about anti-Semitism in Germany.

Last week, two young men wearing Jewish skullcaps (kippahs) were assaulted in Berlin. The attacker was filmed shouting anti-Semitic abuse.

Jewish organisations in Germany have expressed alarm over a number of recent anti-Semitic insults and threats in German schools.

Germany's Jewish population has grown rapidly since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Before 1989, the population was below 30,000 but an influx of Jews, mainly from the former Soviet Union, has raised the number to more than 200,000.

More on this story