2nd Freemuse World Conference on Music and Censorship

10 October 2002
Brief conference report
How to revive and reconstruct the Afghan musical scene that has been shattered for almost a decade?
This was one of the burning issues at the recent 2nd World Conference on Music and Censorship, where a parallel seminar on the future of Afghan music sought to create a way forward.

Even though the first steps to promote the musical heritage within Afghanistan have been taken through Kabul Radio and TV, women are still not allowed to perform publicly and freedom of expression in general is fragile.

The Seminar on Afghan Music concluded, “The authorities in Afghanistan should be encouraged to accept the freedom of music as part of freedom of expression”. Furthermore the Seminar supported the idea of establishing an International Committee for Defence of Freedom of Music in Afghanistan, and pleaded that the donor countries for reconstruction of Afghanistan should specify their share in the rehabilitation and promotion of music.

“Mashinai” (Afghanistan)

This seminar, attended by 50 Afghans from all over the world, was arranged to follow up the recommendations of the report “Can You Stop the Birds Singing?” – The Censorship of Music in Afghanistan, published by Freemuse, April 2001.

A total of 200 participants and 30 speakers from 20 different countries attended the Freemuse-organized 2nd World Conference on Music and Censorship, which took place on 28-29 September, in Copenhagen, Denmark. Among these were esteemed musicians such as Marcel Khalife (Lebanon/France), Farhad Darya (Afghanistan/USA), ‘Mashinai’ (Afghanistan), and Amal Murkus (Palestine/Israel).

Amal Murkus (Palestine/Israel)

Cultural boycott
Whether a cultural boycott is an appropriate instrument to support oppressed and censored musicians was raised during a session on Israel and Palestine. The session also dealt with the effects on musical life on Palestinian artists and concert arrangers.
The war situation has a striking harmful effect on musical activities for Palestinians in Palestine as well as those carrying an Israeli passport. The session included testimonies from Amal Murkus, a Palestinian singer and actress living in Israel and from Rania Elias (Director of Yabous Productions, Palestine), who could not travel from the occupied territory but participated in the conference via telephone, live from Palestine.

Gerald Seligman (Freemuse Executive
Committee member) on the phone with Rania Elias

Noam Ben Zeev, a music critic from the daily Israeli paper Haaretz, contributed with his observations from “the other” side.

The pros & cons against boycott was discussed further by South African participants sharing their views and experiences from the cultural boycott during apartheid time. This session also dealt with reconciliation and acceptance of “the other” as the former police spy Paul Erasmus met face to face with the musician Roger Lucey whose career so abruptly had been stopped by Erasmus 20 years ago. Through harassment, tear gas attacks, silent repression and censorship Erasmus put an end to Lucey’s thriving career. The final conclusion came from Lucey saying; ” I’m OK, but the demons Paul Erasmus is carrying with him still today..”

Ali Bature, a Nigerian member of The Censorship Board of Kano District, defended his position, as he claimed this was the only solution to allow music to be performed at all, after the Islamic Sharia law recently was introduced in Kano District of northern Nigeria.
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