Copenhagen: Artists will perform live in Pakistan, Hungary, Senegal, Sweden, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway on Music Freedom Day, 3 March 2016, in defence of artistic freedom.
Starting in Peshawar, one of the most dangerous places in the world for musicians, Music Freedom Day activities will be marked in many countries with concerts, seminars, film screenings, radio programmes and newspaper articles on the subject of freedom of expression for musicians.
Established by Freemuse in 2007, the annual Music Freedom Day is a powerful, united manifestation to support persecuted, prosecuted and imprisoned musicians, many of whose only crime has been to have spoken up against authorities and insist on the right to express themselves through their music.
There are many reasons to focus on the right to freedom of musical expression. As an example, just this week, on 29 February 2016, three Iranian artists were each sentenced to three years in prison, three years of probation and a hefty fine for the production and promotion of underground music.
“Music Freedom Day is dedicated to freedom of musical expression, which is not only a right for musicians to create and perform, but also a right for audiences to attend and enjoy concerts. Iran is violating these rights,” says Ole Reitov, Freemuse Executive Director.
Attacks on music affect entire societies. Musicians and songwriters are being killed, persecuted and imprisoned more than any other artists. In 2015 Freemuse documented 309 cases of censorship and attacks on music and musicians. Audiences who want to experience live music are also more at risk.
“This year, Music Freedom Day especially commemorates the victims of the attack at the Bataclan Club in Paris in November 2015,” Reitov said.
The horrible attacks in Paris are a harsh reminder that groups inspired by religious fundamentalism are willing to make use of the most brutal violence to stop music. The Taleban made a total ban on music in Afghanistan in the 1990’s, the jihadist group MUJAO copied this in Mali in 2012 and several websites promote ideas of music being “haram” or the “tool of the devil”.
In the lead-up to Music Freedom Day, Freemuse has compiled a playlist of banned songs on Spotify and presents a music video for a unique track with a group of today’s most powerful Arab and Iranian revolutionary artists joining together to cover Fela Kuti’s most powerful political song: ‘Zombie’. Several of the artists featured in the video will perform live during Music Freedom Day in Harstad, Norway.
A special audio track featuring Mali’s Songhoy Blues with special guests is available to broadcasters worldwide upon request. Recorded by Mark LeVine, the group has made a new version of one of Fela Kuti’s most famous grooves ‘Shakara’, with new lyrics written by the band riffing off the original’s condemnation of the rich Nigerians who showed off their wealth as so many suffered in grinding poverty. Songhoy Blues’ version of ‘Shakara’ takes Fela’s Afrobeat in a new, Malian-driven direction.
Songhoy Blues is also featured in the documentary ‘They Will Have To Kill Us First – Malian Music in Exile’, which will be released in the USA as part of Music Freedom Day.