China: Uncertainty over ban of concerts with American folk singer Bob Dylan

7 April 2010
The Chinese government allegedly refused to allow the 68-year-old American folk singer Bob Dylan to perform in Beijing and Shanghai because of his reputation as a protestsinger. We write ‘allegedly’, because other sources refute the reports that Dylan was refused.

Jeffrey Wu, operations manager of Bob Dylan’s tour promoter in China, the Taipei-based Brokers Brothers Herald, was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying: “China’s Ministry of Culture did not give us permission to stage concerts in Beijing and Shanghai, so we had no alternative but to scrap plans for a Southeast Asian tour… With Beijing and China ruled out, it was not possible for him just to play concerts in only Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan. The chance to play in China was the main attraction for him. When that fell through everything else was called off.”

According to Jeffrey Wu, the Chinese Ministry of Culture was “wary of Dylan’s past as an icon of the counterculture movement” – and this statement of his was quoted in news media and websites all over the world in the following hours – along with mentioning that the (alleged) refusal was a repeat the 2009 ban of a concert in China with the British band Oasis (on the grounds that they had once, 12 years earlier, performed at a ‘Free Tibet’ concert), and also followed an embarrassment caused to the Chinese government in 2008 when the Icelandic singer Björk shouted “Tibet! Tibet!” after performing a song titled ‘Declare Independence’ in Shanghai.

However, on the following day, doubts emerged over whether Dylan, who has never performed in mainland China, had in fact come as far as applying for permission to perform in China. On 6 April, an official with the Ministry of Culture’s division in charge of entertainment, performances and artworks refuted the reports that Dylan was refused. The official, who declined to give her name, said her office had never received an application for performances by Bob Dylan in mainland China.






South China Morning Post – 5 April 2010.
The Wall Street Journal – 7 April 2010:
‘Mystery Surrounds Cancellation of Dylan Tour’

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