Sweden: Belarus has a winner in the Eurovision village

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A week before the Eurovision final, Belarus has a winner in the Eurovision Village. Unfortunately he is banned in his home country! On Sunday 8 May, Lavon Volski will receive the Freemuse Award 2016 for his assiduous and fearless fight for freedom of musical expression in Belarus.

The award will be presented at the large stage in the Eurovision Village in Kungsträdgården – the public festival area in Stockholm during Eurovision Song Contest.

The official Belarus entry – Ivan: ‘Help You Fly’ – was selected through a national final organised by the national broadcaster BTRC. This is the very same broadcaster that bans Lavon Volski and other artists who criticise the regime.

Lavon Volski will receive the award at 5pm. On stage he will be joined by previous Freemuse Award winner Ramy Essam, known as the ‘singer of the Tahrir Square revolution’.

They share the fate of being banned in their home countries.

Panel discussion: Music a human right?
Volski will also take part in a panel discussion at 3:45pm in the Eurovision village, entitled: ‘Music a human right?’ Some of Sweden’s leading experts and Freemuse Executive Director Ole Reitov will discuss why and how music is censored, and why Sweden offers safe havens for persecuted artists.

Lavon Volski is one of the most popular figures of the alternative music scene in Belarus. In the past 15 years his bands and songs have been blacklisted, and his concerts have been abolished countless times.

The Freemuse Award is presented to an individual or an organisation that “has worked for freedom of musical expression in a remarkable way.”

“Being banned from performing in Belarus, Lavon Volski has not only suffered personally and financially but also has been denied access to his audience. In spite of this, he has tirelessly and fearlessly continued to write and record songs critical to the regime,” says Ole Reitov, who will present the award to Volski on stage in the Eurovision village

Repressions and intimidation
President Aljaksandr Lukashenka, frequently called the ‘last dictator in Europe’, reigns the post-soviet country through a ‘firm’ policy of repressions and intimidation against his critics in the spheres of politics, civil society, business and arts.

This includes an infamous ‘black list’ which started circulating in 2011 and meant to ‘direct’ arts institutions, broadcasters, publishers and organisers. The list is naming so-called ‘unwanted’ musicians, artists and actors.

Even though he was blacklisted, Lavon Volski decided not to give in and became one of the prominent personalities in the cultural sphere of Belarus who remained outspoken and critical about Lukashenka’s regime.
“I think the time of compromises was over,” explains Lavon. “The time of false trades and playing by wrong rules, by manoeuvring or imposing an inner censor on yourself. The time of false meanings and reading between the lines. It is important to talk about the dirt and mud we are living with in this country.”


When and where
Eurovision Village, Stockholm, Sweden – on Sunday 8 May 2016

Read more
» Facebook event page:
www.facebook.com/events/1664455210483702 (in Swedish)

» Background article about Lavon Volski:
www.freemuse.org/archives/12058

About the Freemuse Award
The Freemuse Award, initiated in 2008, is given to an individual or an organisation that “has worked for freedom of musical expression in a remarkable way”.

» This press release in A4-format for print (PDF)