The prize's jury praised French-born, Chinese American Ma as "the leading cellist of our time," CBC News reported.
"With a cello and curiosity in his wake, Yo-Yo Ma has, in traveling routes like the Silk Road, united people from every continent," the jury said in a statement. "Yo-Yo Ma is living proof that music is communication, passion and the ability to share experience."
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The jury's citation also called Simon, the former half of '60s folk duo Simon & Garfunkel, a “world-class songwriter” who captured the currents of his time with “consummate skill, innovative arrangements and provocative lyrics," according to the AP.
"For five decades, Paul Simon has built bridges not only over troubled waters but over entire oceans by (re)joining the world's continents with his music," the statement said, according to NME. "Paul Simon has compiled a library of songs which will remain open to future generations."
The award is presented annually to both a pop act and classical performer, and will bestow its two recipients with 1 million kronor (or roughly $146,000) at a ceremony in Stockholm August 28, NME News reported.
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The Polar Music Prize was founded by the late Stig Anderson, who managed Swedish pop group ABBA, and has been given out since 1992, the Associated Press reported.
"Without any restrictions of nationality, the prize is to awarded for significant achievements in music and/or musical activity, or for achievements which are found to be of great potential importance for music or musical activity, and it shall be referable to all fields within or closely connected with music," the Polar Music Prize's website explains.
Some of the prize's past recipients include Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney, Ravi Shankar, and Bob Dylan, according to BBC News. Last year's winners were Patti Smith and US string group Kronos Quartet.