A look at some of the most banned, censored and persecuted musicians in the world today, with Ole Reitov from Freemuse – the global NGO campaigning against music censorship. It’s a selection of music that somebody somewhere doesn’t think you should be allowed to hear, including tracks by The Plastic Wave, Lapiro de Mbanga, Tiken Jah Fakoly, Ferhat Tunç and Chiwoniso Maraire.JUKEBOX: Friday Ripple > 12.03.2010
Freemuse is an independent international organisation which advocates freedom of expression and human rights for musicians and composers worldwide. This month they’ve held their annual Music Freedom Day in cities around the world, and released a compilation album “Listen To The Banned”, featuring tracks by some of today’s most heavily-persecuted musicians. In this week’s show, an introduction to some of those musicians, with commentary by Freemuse’s Ole Reitov. You can hear the whole thing on the Radio Wave Jukebox under Friday Ripple > 12.3.2010; here are some highlights.
The Plastic Wave (Iran)
The Plastic Wave play the kind of edgy electro-rock that would make you first assume that they come from New York or Montreal. In fact they’re from Tehran in Iran, and it’s impossible for them to officially play there – vocalist Maral is an unveiled woman, which is makes their performances illegal under Iranian law.
Maral and main songwriter Natch met while both performing at an illegal underground festival in Iran. They both served jail time for being involved in this “satanic” event, and afterwards they formed The Plastic Wave. They’ve been repeatedly invited to play in the United States, including by the prestigious SXSW festival, but the US refuses to give them travel visas. Banned at home and evidently banned from entering the States, The Plastic Wave exists mainly as an internet phenomenon - you can download their album free here.
Nevertheless, on 3rd March 2010 their music got its first live American performance, when Brooklyn
electro-goths and Plastic Wave fans Cruel Black Dove performed a set of the band’s music in New York. The band themselves were virtually present via online link-up. This was part of Music Freedom Day, an annual event organised by Freemuse to give greater exposure to banned musicians; you can see a clip from the concert on the website of US television network NBC.
Ole Reitov says: “Music Freedom Day is supposed to celebrate freedom of musical expression, because there are a lot of artists around the world who are censored and banned. So instead of having a negative event, this is rather a positive event, where the music that is being banned is being played one way or the other... In general, after 9/11 it’s become increasingly difficult for artists from overseas, even very established artists from Europe, to travel and work in the US. So if you come from a country like Iran, the immediate reaction at a US embassy will be ‘Ok, these guys just want to come over here and stay here and leave their country.’”
Lapiro de Mbango (Cameroon)
Vocalist/guitarist Lapiro is one of Cameroon’s biggest stars, playing uptempo guitar-driven Afropop topped with satirical lyrics. He’s presently serving a three-year prison service for “complicity in riots” after anti-government protesters adopted his song Constitution Constipée (“constipated constitution”) as an anthem. In this week’s show you can hear the song in question, plus some dub from the compilation Libérons Lapiro!/Free Lapiro!, an album of tributes to Lapiro recorded by musicians around the world. Online world music shop Mondomix is hosting a petition for Lapiro’s release, and you get a free download of this album if you sign it (registration required).
Ole Reitov says: “He’s been very openly criticising the President, Paul Biya of Cameroon, for being too old and too corrupt. He was doing television interviews asking or requesting the President to step down. He did a song called Constitution Constipée – ‘Constipated Constitution’, which talks about the old man being tired, which is actually the President. But what happened was that a year and a half ago, a lot of people were dissatisfied about their political system in Cameroon - it’s a very very corrupt country - so they took to the streets and started demonstrating. And Lapiro’s song became sort of the song of those demonstrations. Now, some demonstrators were also very dissatisfied about their working conditions in a banana planation, and it seemed that it was burned down. But the government said, ‘Well, Lapiro was the person behind all this’, in spite of the fact that he attempted to make peaceful demonstrations. So they charged him with incitement and whatnot, and put him into prison for three years. And they demanded him to pay compensation of over three million Euros.”
Tiken Jah Fakoly (Cote d’Ivoire)
Hailing from the same place as reggae legends like Alpha Blondy and Ismaël Isaac, Tiken Jah Fakoly is the biggest name in contemporary West African reggae. These days he lives in Mali, exiled from his native Cote d’Ivoire and banned from entering Senegal. Fakoly is a protest singer and a troublemaker on a grand scale – which is why some people want him dead.
Ole Reitov says: “In this case, there was a coup in the Ivory Coast, and the General said, as Generals often say, ‘We’re gona put order in our house, there’s gonna be new democracy’, and whatnot. Tiken had heard these things before, so he recorded this speech by the General, and after two months, when nothing had happened, no new changes took place, he sampled that speech into a song, and reminded, ‘Remember what you told us. What you promised the population. And this is not happening.’ Now, this was not particularly popular with the army or the General, so he got a call from someone who was very sympathetic to him, saying, well, ‘You’d better leave the country now, because there are plans to kill you.’”
Ferhat Tunç (Turkey)
A Kurdish-Turkish singer-songwriter who blends traditional Kurdish music with 21st-century beats and instrumentation, Ferhat Tunç is also a well-known Kurdish-rights activist and journalist. These are traditionally not popular occupations in Turkey, a country with a long history of tension between its state and its Kurdish minority...
Ole Reitov says: “He’s someone who quite frequently has to go to courtrooms.... Ferhat Tunç is not only a singer, he’s also a symbol for Kurdish minorities, he’s been a very strong spokesman for cultural and political rights for the Kurdish people. So not only is he a singer who has a huge production behind him, almost 20 CDs, he’s also a political activist and a writer, he writes articles and commentaries. So sometimes his concerts are being banned, his songs are not being played on national radio and television; sometimes he’s taken to prison; and, as I said, frequently he goes to court. I think he’s got about four or six court cases at the moment, for various charges.”
Chiwoniso Maraire (Zimbabwe)
Chiwoniso Maraire (or simply Chiwoniso) takes Zimbabwean pop and gives it a hard-edged sound incorporating influences ranging from Afrobeat to ska. As the title of her last album, 2008’s Rebel Woman, suggests, she’s also an uncompromising commentator on social and political issues. Her country is presently locked into a precarious power-sharing agreement between opposition groups and President/former dictator Robert Mugabe. Unsurprisingly, she presently lives in exile.
Ole Reitov says: “What happened with Chiwoniso was that, in the beginning she was quite happy about land reforms, but she also realised after a couple of years that a lot of the things that the system told that they would do, you know, do something for poor people, that actually didn’t happen. So she started also to be critical of the whole situation. And she was taken in to the police, and it was a very unpleasant situation for her, so she decided to at least temporarily leave the country. She hasn’t gone into official exile, but the situation is just too difficult.”
This week’s show only touches on a small part of modern music censorship worldwide. Freemuse also documents and campaigns against the censorship of many styles of music which are outside the Friday Ripple’s musical scope - from indigenous folk music to heavy metal - and you can find a much more comprehensive guide to contemporary music censorship on their website.
Elsewhere on this week’s show
Lots more rebel music of various kinds. There’s a short retro section which, predictably enough for the Friday Ripple, features a Fela Kuti classic and a selection of apartheid-era South African punk and hip hop dissidents. There’s also a couple of tracks from a long-lost compilation in support of jailed Native American activist Leonard Peltier, which was put together by American metal band Corrosion of Conformity in 1994 but never officially released. A former A&R assistant at Sony records discovered the lost tapes earlier this month and is distributing the music free online, with presumably the full approval of the artists who gave their music to this project for free in the first place. Here, we feature a Beastie Boys rarity and a previously unheard collaboration between Corrosion of Conformity and Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha (Legal grey area alert: I’m not saying it’s definitely legal to download this one; I’m just saying the artists themselves would almost certainly approve...)
Rounding off the rebel music mix, we’ve also got a couple of contemporary Nigerian hip hop and dancehall political troublemakers who are long-standing Friday Ripple faves (Eedris Abdulkareem and African China) - and really, we have to finish with Primal Scream’s Swastika Eyes, since... well, it’s a song that has caused Český rozhlas to appear in Freemuse’s music censorship reports in the past; no further comment.
All this and more is streaming on the Radio Wave Jukebox right now, under Friday Ripple > 12.3.2010. Here’s the full playlist:
Spearhead feat. Stephen Marley - Rebel Music (3 O'Clock Roadblock) (Capitol)
The Plastic Wave - My Clothes On Other Bodies (self-released)
Cruel Black Dove – Isolation (self-released)
The Plastic Wave - [RE]action (self-released)
Rasboras - Ta’alya ahi (Fedayi Pachas Freedom mix) (Mondomix)
Lapiro di Mbanga - Constitution Constipe (Mondomix)
Selector Matanzas - Free d'Homme (Eluard mix)(Mondomix)
Tiken Jah Fakoly - Quitte le Pouvoir (Universal Music)
Tata Pound feat Tiken Jah Fakoly – Delivrance (Survie)
Ferhat Tunc – Alisero (Ideal Muzik Yapim)
Chiwoniso Maraire – Gomo (Cumbancha)
Migrant Souls - Africa is Zion (Black Mango Music)
Eedris Abdulkareem - Jaga Jaga (Kennis Music)
Fela Kuti - Shuffering And Shmiling (Wrasse)
National Wake - Black Punk Rockers (Rhythm Records)
Koos - Sing Jy van Bomme (One F Music/Rhythm Records)
Prophets of da City - Blood, Bullets and Pigs (Ghetto Ruff)
Prophets of da City - Understand Where I'm Coming From (Ghetto Ruff)
Beastie Boys - (R)Evolution Time (self-released)
Zac de la Rocha & Corrosion of Conformity - The Punchline (self-released)
Africa China feat Efe - Mr. President (Out Here Records)
Primal Scream - Swastika Eyes (Jagz Kooner Mix) (Creation)
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