Marie Korpe (ed.) MUSIC WILL NOT BE SILENCED – 3rd Freemuse World Conference on Music & Censorship, Istanbul 25-26. November 2006 Report no. 8 Freemuse, Copenhagen, 2007 ISSN: 1601-2127. 75 pages. Read the report The printed version of the report is unfortunately out of stock.
MUSIC WILL NOT BE SILENCED
INTRODUCTION By Ole Reitov
Listening to many of the horrifying testimonies by musicians and composers at the 3rd Freemuse World Conference on Music & Censorship one could easily get depressed. But the spirit of the conference left most of the participants with a great deal of hope and optimism. Suggested by our main Turkish collaborator, composer and human rights activist, Sanar Yurdatapan, Association of Freedom of Expression, the conference was held under the slogan “Music will not be silenced”, and indeed the conference was a proof of this vital statement.
Musicians all over the world are being harassed. Composers are being jailed or exiled. Death threats are even hitting music presenters. And music is being silenced in some spaces by dictators such as Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, by media controllers in China, police forces and state television in Turkey and by the absurd political dictatorship in Belarus.
But musicians, composers and listeners do find their ways of bypassing even the strictest censors.
Even in Afghanistan during the Taliban Regime, who officially banned all music – music did find its way to some houses and cars through “illegal” cassettes, private gatherings and… Well, yes even the Taliban did not manage to “(can you) Stop the birds singing” – the title of the first ever Freemuse report written by Professor John Baily in 2001.
The combination of participants – researchers, musicians, composers, human rights activists, students and media may possibly be the best explanation to the special atmosphere at the Freemuse conferences and the reason why Baily later commented “a fantastic experience, probably the most interesting and certainly the most moving conference I have ever attended.”
Certainly the participants were magnetised from the very first minute of the conference by the exceptional voices of Iranian sisters Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat. Artists of world class who are not able to perform for mixed audiences in their home country. This is what music censorship is about – voices that are not being heard and allowed to develop in their own countries.
The opening of day two – a dozen testimonies by Turkish composers and performers witnessing about harassments, jailing and threats provoked tears and anger … but also action. The very same artists from Turkey launched the SSS initiative – Sanatta Sansüre Son – which means “End to Censorship on Arts” after the session. This may be one of the reasons Mahsa Vahdat after the conference declared that “it was so moving for us. It gives us more power and courage to continue our aim in our work…”
Meeting colleagues, exchanging experiences and creating network is an essential part of the Freemuse conferences. In Istanbul this was made possible by the generous collaborations with our partners – Bilgi University and Professor Turgut Tarhanl› playing a very special role inviting us to make use of the university facilities.
Istanbul – for many other reasons – also seemed to be the right place at the right time, best described by Songlines editor, Simon Broughton in his editorial as “the perfect location because it’s a vibrant city and Turkey has undergone a dramatic transformation in terms of freedom of speech and music.”
The vibrant city was well made use of in what has become a great world conference tradition – “the farewell party” where speakers and participants join each other and the artists perform and join in new formations. This time the after party became a world class jam-session when Turkey’s most celebrated and reclusive singer Sezen Aksu came to join and sing with the other amazing conference artists.
This report presents in short the discussions, testimonies and papers presented at the conference.
Teresa Hanley did the major job of being conference rapporteur and writing the report. The impressive Turkish session was referred in detail by Doruk Yurdesin and finally did Bram Posthumus add his impressions of the final sessions.
Some of you were not able to attend, and papers do not always reflect the personality of the speakers, so in addition to the report we would like to offer the voices and faces of some of the speakers.
For the first time in a Freemuse report we add a CD-R with some of the interviews that our web editor, Mik Aidt, made in Istanbul assisted by Gaelle Gauthier-Brown. The CD-R also includes two songs that in many ways are the result of the networks that our conferences have been able to create. During the conference several of our media collaborators decided to move on with an idea that originally came from CBC producer, Ann MacKeigan – the Music Freedom Day.
Freemuse asked Jason Carter and Marjan Vahdat to record a song – they performed for the first time together at the amazing afterparty – and rapper Ourrad Rabah to consider making a song on “music censorship” for this special occasion. Included in the CD-R you will find these amazing songs.
Ole Reitov Conference Project Manager
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION: MUSIC WILL NOT BE SILENCED
SESSION 1 • AFGHANISTAN You can’t stop the birds singing
SESSION 2 • INDONESIA Singing with the Mullahs
SESSION 3 • CUBA Cuban alternative sounds… and silences
SESSION 4 • ZIMBABWE Playing with fire – but no fuel
SESSION 5 • SOUTH AFRICA On tour with the enemy
SESSION 6 • BELARUS Hidden Truths – launch of new Freemuse report
SESSION 7 • TURKEY And the ‘beat’ goes on – censorship in Turkey
SESSION 8 • CHINA Singing under the Red Flag
SESSION 9 • WEST AFRICA Africa wants to be free
SESSION 10 • MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA All that is banned is desired
SESSION 11 • RESEARCH AND EDUCATION Researching music censorship