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GERMANY'S GRAMMYS SHAKEN AS WINNING RAPPERS ACCUSED OF
ANTI-SEMITISM

A firestorm erupted last week at the Echo Awards, Germany’s Grammys, after rap collaborators Kollegah and Farid Bang won album of the year for part three of their series Jung, Brutal, Gutaussehend (which translates as “Young, Brutal, Good-looking”).

The controversy centers on one track from the deluxe edition of the set, which contains the line, “My body’s more defined than that of Auschwitz inmates.” Not surprisingly, according to various published reports, said line sparked wall-to-wall indignation from German media and celebrities, who were extremely skeptical about the rappers’ repeated claims that they were not bigots. Additionally, several winners announced that they were returning their awards in protest. 

The collaborators were under a bit of pressure on top of the uproar, because in Germany, utterances that are considered anti-Semitic can be punished with jail time. Farid Bang publicly apologized to Jewish Auschwitz survivor Esther Bejarano, and Kollegah promised his Jewish fans that they’d be granted lifelong free access to his shows.

Echo nominees are determined first and foremost by their album sales figures, German journalist Gideon Gottfried explained in Pollstar, although a jury vote is also factored in. Between the standard and deluxe editions, it’s believed that JBG3 has sold around 140k between the standard and deluxe editions—a big number in the German market.

According to Gottfried, the Echo jury has the option of referring controversial cases to the Echo Beirat, an independent advisory committee, which it did with JBG3. But Echo Beirat said it decided to place artistic freedom above fundamental societal norms, although it disapproved of the language used on the album as a whole. The head of the Echo Beirat, Christian Höppner—who’s also president of Deutscher Kulturrat, Germany’s council on cultural matters—subsequently stepped down.

The BVMI, Germany’s trade org, which co-promotes the Echo, has announced that the event’s entire concept, from the nominations to the award ceremony, would be revamped. Fortunately, no BVMI official asserted that German Jews need to “step up.”

The controversy yanked the spotlight away from several Echo-winning German artists who have made an impact outside the country’s borders, including Alice Merton, Milky Chance and lifetime-achievement recipient Klaus Voormann.

RIC OCASEK,
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