News and knowledge about musical freedom of expression. Mailchimp
Dear Freemuse subscriber,
Fifteen years ago the first ever world conference on music & censorship took place in Copenhagen. Freemuse is a child of the conference organised by Marie Korpe, who later became the Freemuse Executive Director. The world had just experienced the worst ever attack on music – a total ban in Afghanistan motivated by religious extremism. Few would have imagined that one of the most vibrant music cultures in the world, Mali, would experience a similar situation just a decade later.
Consequently, when Freemuse and Fritt Ord organised the first ever world conference on artistic freedom of expression, ‘All that is banned is desired’ last year, one of the sessions,‘The Day Music Stopped’, discussed the banning of music in Northern Mali featuring Freemuse Award winner Manny Ansar and the Malinese band Terakaft. We even set up a webpage documenting violations on artistic freedom. The webpage – artsfreedom.org – includes several interviews with artists and videos from the world conference.
This year we published Andy Morgan’s book on ‘Music, Culture and Conflict in Mali’. The book is now available fromAmazon. Unfortunately many of the stories revealed in the book echoes the tragic stories that came out from Afghanistan in the first Freemuse report from 2001, ‘Can you stop the birds singing?’, written by John Baily.
Religion and self-censorship
Many artists restrict themselves in fear of retaliation. Especially religious issues are considered too controversial to address in many societies. Over the years, Freemuse has documented many attacks on music based on religious beliefs. One of Africa’s most outspoken artists, Didier Awadi, who earlier this year joined Freemuse at the UN headquarters in Geneva, reflects on self-censorship in an interview with Freemuse.
Religion, apartheid, music censorship and reconciliation
During the 1st World Conference in 1998, South African guitar player Ray Phiri said: “The closest thing to religion happens to be music. When a child is born, at the celebration people are singing. At the funeral we sing hymns. So, music plays a very important role in our lives and society’s norms also. Each and every song is based either on your personal experiences or what society is going through. They influence your way of thinking and writing. So, immediately when you are not given the right to even express yourself then you start undermining yourself. It’s like somebody is tramping on your dignity. You are a non-person and you start doubting yourself; your confidence simply crumbles.”
Four years later in another memorable session at the 2ndFreemuse World Conference, another South African musician, Roger Lucey sat next to former police agent, Paul Erasmus, who had agreed to reveal the “business of dirty tricks” and surveillance in the Freemuse film ‘Stopping the Music’. Directed by Douglas Mitchell and produced by Michael Drewett. Lucey and Erasmus during the following years met frequently and talked about their experiences.
Lucey later wrote: “In many ways Freemuse came into my life at a time when I was about to give up on music completely. The trauma of having my voice silenced, especially in the covert way that it was done made it very difficult for me to come back and do the thing that I loved more than any other. Marie Korpe and Ole Reitov (of Freemuse) initiated a process that enabled me to understand the pain and anger that came from that experience and to meet my nemesis, Paul Erasmus. I am now able to write and play with a new freedom where the past is in its place and future is an open road.”
Lucey and Erasmus reconciled. If you wish to understand the mechanisms and effects of censorship and covert actions, this unique document revealing how a system will do anything to stop artists is now available here. Or you can read Lucey’s remarkable debut book “Back from the Anger”
You can contribute
Freemuse, like any other NGO, is depending on support. You can support us financially, or as a volunteer stringer. If you come across censorship stories or attacks on musicians do report directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the day artists, broadcasters and cultural activists highlight the importance of artists’ rights to freedom of expression. Planning for Music Freedom Day on 3 March 2014 has been initiated in a number of countries.Join the event