Freemuse Award 2009

26 February 2009

The American singer, songwriter, activist, environmentalist, and peace advocate Pete Seeger is The Freemuse Award Winner 2009. He is awarded on Music Freedom Day, 3 March 2009, for his commitment to musicians’ freedom of expression in an illustrious career which spans over sixty years.

“Pete Seeger’s voice has been one which has constantly been on the side of the oppressed and which has refused to remain silent in even the darkest hours. He remains an inspiration to those musicians who seek to use their work for the greater benefit of mankind,’ wrote the nominating committee.

Although Pete Seeger does not believe in awards, he accepted the Freemuse Award. In a statement Pete Seeger quotes an old Arab proverb:

‘When the king puts a poet on his payroll, he cuts off the tongue of the poet!’

Pete Seeger adds: “But throughout history, songwriters have found ways to get around this problem by putting together songs that people like to sing and teach to their friends.”

Click to see video
See video from the award ceremony

Blacklisted in 1955
Pete Seeger faced censorship for decades in his music career for promoting peace, justice, and equality in his music. In 1955 Seeger was blacklisted from work when he was subpoenaed to testify before the US House of Un-American Activities Committee, and he refused to testify citing his guarantee to freedom of expression.

Boycotted by commercial venues and media, Pete Seeger continued performing for young people at universities and rallies and created a boom of folk music. His songs played an essential role in the civil rights movement. It was his variation of an old spiritual, which Seeger called ‘We Shall Overcome’, that has become an anthem of the crusade for equality in America.

Tv performance cut by censors
The Vietnam War deeply and personally offended Pete Seeger, who used his network television return on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour to air a scathing attack on Lyndon Johnson’s war policies, “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.” The song was cut by network censors, but Seeger made a second appearance on the programme and sang the song without interruption. When folk-rock band The Byrds recorded his legendary song ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’, Pete Seeger’s music reached millions of young people all over the world.

Seeger has never stopped. He recently joined his grandson Tao Rodriquez-Seeger and old friend Bruce Springsteen at the American president Obama’s inauguration, performing for hundred of thousands.

In 2006, Bruce Springsteen recorded `We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions´, reinterpreting 13 songs from Seeger’s songbook.

Grandson Tao attends award ceremony
The Award Ceremony will take place at Stockholm’s Concert Hall, marking the Music Freedom Day on 3 March.

Pete Seeger does not like to travel far these days, so he has requested grandson Tao Rodriquez-Seeger, an established artist on his own, to travel to Stockholm and receive the Freemuse Award on his behalf.

World-renowned Swedish glass designer Göran Wärff has created the Freemuse Award statuette. The Award is sponsored by BAIK — the Björn Afzelius International Culture Foundation, which was initiated in memory of Swedish rock singer Björn Afzelius who died 1999. Afzelius was a political activist and a strong spokesman for suppressed people.

To inspire
“At Freemuse we deal daily with the horrors of music censorship. We document how artists are being harassed, jailed and even killed. Pete Seeger continues to inspire artists and human rights activists all over the world,” says Marie Korpe, Freemuse’s executive director.

Last year, the exiled Ivorian reggae artist Tiken Jah Fakoly received the Freemuse Award. Tiken Jah Fakoly has been forced into exile being a strong critic of political corruption in his home country.

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Pete Seeger

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Björn Afzelius

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About Pete Seeger:

Febuary 1952, USA:
Seeger & the Weavers banned

The Weavers had major hits in the early 1950s. The song ‘Wimoweh’ was recorded in 1951 by Pete Seeger and his band The Weavers, in a version faithful to the Zulu original. But this was the era of McCarthy witch hunts in America, and Pete Seeger’s politics made him an inevitable quarry of the commie-chasing House Un-American Affairs Committee.

Just as ‘Wimoweh’ made its chart debut, a former trade union colleague of Seeger’s named Harvey Matusow denounced the musician to the committee. In “one of the looniest tales of the entire McCarthy era”, Harvey Matusow testified that communists were “preying on the sexual weakness of American youth”. And he was willing to give names – one of which was Pete Seeger. The public reaction was immediate. The press went wild, Weavers’ shows and television appearances were cancelled, radio stations banned their records and ‘Wimoweh’ tumbled off the charts. This was in February 1952.

On August 18, 1955, Pete was subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) where he refused to name personal and political associations stating it would violate his First Amendment rights.

“I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this,” he said.

Pete Seeger’s refusal to testify led to a March 26, 1957 indictment for contempt of Congress; for some years, he had to keep the federal government apprised of where he was going any time he left the Southern District of New York. He was convicted in a jury trial in March 1961, and sentenced to a year in jail, but in May 1962 an appeals court ruled the indictment to be flawed and overturned his conviction.

Pete Seeger did not appear on television for 17 years, until the Smothers Brothers broke the boycott.

Source: and others.



Pete Seeger in 1955

Video clips

Pete Seeger on YouTube:
AMERICAN MASTERS | Pete Seeger: The Power of Song | PBS

Pete Seeger, Tao Seeger and Bruce Springsteen – This Land is Your Land

More videos with Pete Seeger on YouTube


Media coverage of Music Freedom Day 2009

Google – continously updated:

Search: ‘Freemuse Award’ + ‘Pete Seeger’

Swedish Broadcasting Corporation, SR, Mitt I Musiken veckospecial (the weekly special) will focus on music censorship on 6 March 2009

Pro-Music (IFPI) – 3 March 2009:

‘International music charity runs Music Freedom Day in Stockholm’

Swedish Broadcasting Corporation, SR, Mitt I Musiken – 3 March 2009:

‘Mord och våld tvingar pakistanska musiker göra offentlig avbön’

Swedish Broadcasting Corporation, SR P3, Kvällspasset – 3 March 2009
‘Musik och frihet!’
‘Idag firas Music freedom day. Går det att förändra världen med musik eller är det bara en floskel? Vi bjuder in Marie Korpe chef för Freemuse som är övertygad om att musik kan försätta, om inte berg så i alla fall korrupta regimer. Vad tror du? Och har du frågor som du tycker att vi ska ställa till Maria Krope? Skriv i kommentorsfältet…’

Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden) – 3 March 2009:

‘Musiker kämpar för yttrandefrihet’

Swedish Broadcasting Corporation International, ‘Radio Sweden’, Farsi services – 3 March 2009

Radio 2000 (in South Africa), The Super Fantastic Breakfast Show – 3 March 2009:

SVT, Kulturnyheterne – 2 and 3 March 2009

Yeniozgur Politika (Kurdish / Germany) – 3 March 2009:

‘FERHAT TUNÇ: 3 Mart ‘Dünya Özgür Müzik Günü’ne dair’ (Turkey) – 3 March 2009:

”3 Mart Dünya Özgür Müzik Günü 2” (Turkey) – 2 March 2009:

‘3 Mart Dünya Özgür Müzik Günü 1’

Dagens Nyheter (Sweden) – 2 March 2009:

‘Music freedom day firas i Konserthuset’

Privata Affärer (Sweden) – 2 March 2009:

‘Music Freedom Day: Sida stödjer fri musik – viktigt för yttrandefrihet’

WDR, West German Radio – 2 March 2009: – 2 March 2009:

‘Dünya Özgür Müzik Günü: Şarkıları Serbest Bırakın!’

Swedish Broadcasting Corporation, SR P2, ‘Klingan’ – 1 March 2009 at 11 am:

‘Möte med Chiwoniso och Pete Seeger’

Cultures (Denmark) – 27 February 2009:

‘Music Fredom Day markeres af musikere og medier’

Swedish Broadcasting Corporation, SR P2, Mitt i musiken – 26 February 2009:

‘Freemuse Award 09 till Pete Seeger’

Nairobiklubben (Denmark) – 24 February 2009:

‘Music Freedom Day 2009’

Gondwana Sound – 24 February 2009:

‘Music Freedom Day, March 3rd’

World Music Central – 23 February 2009:

‘Music Freedom Day Will be Celebrated Internationally on Tuesday 3 March 2009’

Rootszone (Denmark) – 22 February 2009:

‘Music Freedom Day 09’

Faro Journalen (Norway) – 20 February 2009:

‘Music Freedom Day i Stockholm’

International Freedom of Expression Exchange, IFEX – 18 February 2009:

‘Focus on music censorship on Music Freedom Day, 3 March’

Related reading about Music Freedom Day

Pakistan: Manifestations of tolerance and acceptance of music, art and culture
On Music Freedom Day 2013 at a local hotel in Peshawar, music lovers put their voices together to ensure the freedom of artistic and musical expressions.
04 March 2013
Pakistan: The undeclared ban on playing music lingers on
Sher Alam Shinwari set out to investigate what the situation is like in Peshawar on Music Freedom Day 2013. He found stifling sounds of Pashto music amid militancy and hostility
01 March 2013
Press release: Broadcasters and artists join Music Freedom Day 2013
Sunday 3 March 2013 we commemorate the six musicians who were killed in the last year, and show support to the many who have been imprisoned and persecuted.
28 February 2013
Freemuse report: Music, Culture and Conflict in Mali
In relationship to Music Freedom Day 2013, Freemuse publishes a very extensive documentation of how music has been affected in Mali
28 February 2013
Norway: Norwegians mark Music Freedom Day with freedom of expression festival
An international celebration of freedom of expression in art and culture, entitled ‘RED ZONE – FREE THE ARTS’, will be held in Norway from 28 February to 3 March 2013.
11 February 2013
Music Freedom Day: Verdensmusikbanken indgår samarbejde med Bibzoom
I skoleåret 2012-2013 kan en skoleklasse vinde rollen som redaktør på i forbindelse med den årlige Music Freedom Day den 3. marts 2013
02 July 2012
Somalia – Music Freedom Report: Music too powerful to ban
Video from Somalia – part of the series of Music Freedom Reports which was published in March 2012 on the occassion of Music Freedom Day 2012
07 March 2012
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Reports and documentation of Music Freedom Day 2012 which was marked on 3 March 2012 with events, concerts and radio programmes in 22 countries around the world
06 March 2012
Turkey: Şanar Yurdatapan: ‘There is a lot of work to do for all of us’
In 2012, there were no acticities marking Music Freedom Day in Turkey. “This means the work is not over yet,” wrote Sanar Yurdatapan in his chronicle on the day
03 March 2012
Musikkens frihedsdag stiller skarpt på musikernes ytringsfrihed
Musikere og kunstnere i mere end tyve lande benytter den årlige Music Freedom Day som anledning til at markere, hvorfor musikalsk ytringsfrihed er vigtig
02 March 2012
West Papua: Violence and oppression against musicians in forgotten conflict
Video from West Papua – a supplement to Clara Moksha’s Music Freedom Report which was published on 3 March 2012
02 March 2012
Music Freedom Day 2012 – main page
01 March 2012
Azer Cirttan
Video interview with exiled singer and composer Azer Cirttan from Azerbaijan
29 February 2012
Newsletter no. 1 / 2012
Freemuse Newsletter no. 1 / 2012
27 February 2012
København: ‘Release the music’ koncert på Musikkens Frihedsdag
Med 20 hip-hop koncerter og lanceringen af en ny CD får københavnere lørdag den 3. marts 2012 mulighed for at deltage i Music Freedom Day
22 February 2012
Music Freedom Day 2012: hidtil største markering for musikeres ytringsfrihed
Planlægningen af den hidtil største markering af den årlige begivenhed Music Freedom Day er i fuld gang – med seminarer, koncerter og udsendelser over hele kloden.
06 September 2011
Zimbabwe: Journalists and musicians discussed freedom of expression issues
Arts journalists and musicians met on 10 March 2011 in Harare at the Book Café to explore and understand issues related to music freedom and its impact in Zimbabwe
23 March 2011
Zimbabwe: Music Freedom Day rocked the crowd
In Harare, Music Freedom Day was celebrated in a carnival mood on 3 March 2011 at the Book Café, organised by Magamba and Pamberi Trust
18 March 2011
Music Freedom Day: Local ownership creates diversity of innovative events
Music Freedom Day 2011: An exiled DJ returns to Kabul, music is smuggled out from Burma, and Freemuse hands over an award to an imprisoned singer in Cameroon
09 March 2011
Cameroon: Lapiro receives award on Music Freedom Day
On Music Freedom Day, 3 March 2011, Freemuse visited Cameroon and handed over a much awaited award to the imprisoned singer Lapiro de Mbanga
09 March 2011

Freemuse Award 2009: video report and interview from Stockholm
Video interview with Tao Rodriquez-Seeger who received the Freemuse Award on his grandfather’s behalf on 3 March 2009
07 March 2009
Freemuse Award 2009
Singer, songwriter, activist, environmentalist, and peace advocate Pete Seeger receives the Freemuse Award 2009
26 February 2009
Freemusepedia timeline: North America: 1950-1959
USA: Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger & the Weavers, ‘Black music’, Link Wray
01 January 2001

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