Several artists have returned their Echo Awards in Germany to protest the award won by two rappers whose lyrics boasted of having “bodies more defined than Auschwitz inmates.”
In response to the award controversy, BMG, which distributes releases by Kollegah and Farid Bang, has announced a campaign against anti-Semitism.
At the awards ceremony on 12 April, a speaker condemning the rappers received a standing ovation. The award recognises sales, not the content of the album, but the awards committee has pledged to rethink how it will choose winners, according to Variety.
Kollegah and Farid Bang won the Echo Award for having 2017’s best-selling hip-hop album. In their lyrics, along with the boast about their physiques, they call for “another Holocaust; let’s grab the Molotov” cocktails.
The BMG campaign is focused on teaching schoolchildren about anti-Semitism. The distributor has pledged £87,000 to the campaign.
“Recent news reports have produced shocking evidence of a new wave of anti-Semitism in German schools,” read a statement by BMG Worldwide CEO Hartwig Masuch. “BMG is utterly opposed to anti-Semitism.”
But Masuch also said the artists in question are not anti-Semitic. “Kollegah and Farid Bang have repeatedly made it clear on the internet and speaking in public that they are not anti-Semitic, and they have apologised for any distress caused by the lyrics in question,” he said. “BMG stands for values such as artistic freedom, creativity and diversity.”
The two rappers have also denied their lyrics are anti-Semitic. Kollegah, a Muslim convert whose real name is Felix Blum, said they had been “misinterpreted,” and offered to provide free tickets to future concerts for Jewish fans, he also blamed the media for underestimating the intelligence of his listeners.
Farid Bang, born Farid El Abdellaoui, also wrote a letter to 93-year-old Holocaust survivor and musician Esther Bejarano, where he apologised for any offense caused.