Edited by Marie Korpe (Executive Director, Freemuse), published by Zed Books, London. (ISBN 1 84277 504 9 cased, ISBN 1 84277 505 7 limp) Publication date: 18 May 2004
Governments have tried again and again to censor my music and my ideas. In Shoot the Singer! – Music Censorship Today, Freemuse shows over and over again that governments all over the world will go to great lengths to silence the people. Freemuse speaks the truth side by side with me, standing up for my right, as well as every musician’s right to speak. Thomas Mapfumo (Zimbabwe)
Banning music strangles the very soul of a culture. Shoot the Singer! Music Censorship Today surveys contemporary cases of music censorship worldwide for the first time. It also examines the causes, methods and logic behind attempts to prevent people from hearing certain kinds of music by governments, commercial corporations and religious authorities.
In this volume, cases come from a wide range of countries, including Israel, Turkey, North Korea, Mexico, France, South Africa, Afghanistan, Burma, Cuba and the United States. It is particularly striking how different authorities, in diverse societies, worry enormously about music, and use a broad range of techniques to repress it.
As a vivid image of censorship – and a poignant reminder that the same mechanisms apply to very different parts of the world, ideology notwithstanding – are two of the books’ photos. One showing a Taliban bonfire of music and video cassettes, the other showing a “destruction rally” of Dixie Chicks CD’s being smashed, organized by a local US radio station.
Many of the contributions show that music censorship is not only a developing countries phenomenon, but very much present in the western world today. As well as presenting past and present cases – from the blatant (the assassination of Matoub Lounes, the total ban on music by the Taliban), to the more subtle form of corporate censorship – this volume also explores the logic behind these concerns, including two instances where censors themselves explain what they were doing. Contributions are from scholars, journalists and the testimony of musicians themselves.
Shoot the Singer! Music Censorship Today comes with a free CD, featuring songs from some of the artists and cases described in the book.
The censorship of music is a token of music’s power and the freedom it offers. In Shoot the Singer! both censors and the censored describe their experiences, and in different ways express music’s unique capacity to build community, stimulate feeling, energize and lift people out of themselves and transcend all barriers by speaking directly to the heart. This is a wonderfully vivid and thought-provoking book. Jane Spender, International PEN
Freemuse, the compilers of this worldwide survey, is the only organization dedicated to uncovering present day cases of global music censorship – affecting both musicians and composers – and to developing a global network in support of them. Music censorship has been implemented by states, religions, educational systems, families, retailers and lobbying groups – and in most cases they violate international conventions of human rights. Nevertheless very little research and documentation on music censorship has been done.
Only through the documentation of music censorship can we discuss and understand the effects of censorship. Only through documentation can we support suppressed cultural expressions.
The website www.freemuse.org, nominated for a Webby Award in 2002, is the world’s only website documenting music censorship globally.
Freemuse was born of the 1st World Conference on Music and Censorship held in Copenhagen in November 1998. The conference joined together professionals from diverse fields and countries -musicians, journalists, researchers, record industry professionals and human rights activists – to examine, discuss and document a wide variety of abuses from the apparently benign to the overtly extreme. The alarmingly widespread nature of censorship in music prompted the conference attendees to initiate the creation of a new organization, Freemuse. As its guide is the principles outlined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights as they apply specifically to musicians and composers.