Germany’s Echo Awards embroiled in anti-Semitic accusations, calls for sackings
Germany’s flagship awards Echo are embroiled in a controversy after two of the country’s top rappers accused of being anti-Semitic won an award.
Some past winners have returned their trophies in protest, one awards official has stepped down and calls are for another to be sacked.
The awards are to be overhauled completely in the wake of the controversy.
Rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang released their collaboration album Jung, Brutal, Gutaussehend (Young, Brutal, Good Looking) on their labels Alpha Music and Banger Musik and distributed through BMG.
One track on the deluxe version of JBG3 has lyrics that go: “My body’s more defined than that of Auschwitz inmates.”
Another lyric goes : “I’m doing another Holocaust, coming with a Molotov.”
It’s obvious that Kollegah and Farid Bang are playing harder characters on the album than on their solo records.
But any kind of utterances deemed to be anti-Semitic can lead to jail sentences under German law.
Germany is currently sensitive to the issue after attacks in Jewish people in schools have risen, leading the government to promise to come down hard on perpetrators.
In one prominent case, German chancellor Angela Merkel expressed concern after two men in their 20s wearing traditional Jewish skull-caps were attacked by a group of men shouting phrases in Arabic.
Israeli flags were burnt during a recent protest in Berlin.
Most of Echo’s categories are based on sales; which is why Kollegah and Farid Bang took out this year’s hip hop/urban category.
Their win was criticised by other musicians.
At the Echo ceremony itself, when punk band Die Toten Hosen accepted their win Rock win for Laune der Natur, they commented the rappers should not have been given any prominence.
This got a standing ovation from the audience.
Kollegah and Farid Bang have taken to social media to insist they “judge individuals by their character only”.
Farid Bang went on to publicly apologise to Jewish Auschwitz survivor Esther Bejarano, and Kollegah promised his Jewish fans lifelong free entry to his concerts.
It is understood that JBG3 was referred to Echo Beirat, but it decided to allow the album on the grounds of artistic freedom although it stated it did not approve of the language used.
In the wake of the outcry, Echo Beirat’s chair Christian Höppner – also president of Deutscher Kulturrat, Germany’s council on cultural matters – resigned.
Musician and designer Klaus Voorman, famed Beatles collaborator, returned his lifetime achievement trophy.
Multi-million-selling rock musician Marius Müller Westernhagen sent back his seven Echos, as did Notos Quartett who won the Newcomer category this year.
Germany’s recorded music trade association Bundesverband Musikindustrie (BVMI) which co-organises the Echo awards promised to revamp the whole awards – from the nomination process to the actual ceremony.
A statement said that the awards’ being based on sales alone would be looked at.
“This fundamental principle of the Echo, as well as all mechanisms relating to the nomination and handing out of awards, are going to be thoroughly analysed by us after this year’s experiences, which have affected and shocked us.”
It added the BVMI “rejects any kind of anti-Semitism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia and the glorification of violence.”
That didn’t stop high profile German singer Peter Maffay from calling for the sackings of its CEO Florian Drücke.
The controversy overshadowed the winners.
Of the international categories, Ed Sheeran took male artist, album (Divide) and hit (‘Shape Of You’) while Pink took the female lead and Imagine Dragons best international band.