China: German band Kraftwerk banned for being pro-Tibetan

2 April 2013

The German electronic band Kraftwerk have apparently fallen foul of the Chinese authorities, not for their lyrics or their dissolute ways, but for something they did 14 years ago: In 1999, they were scheduled to perform at a pro-Tibetan independence concert in 1999.


According to reports in Beijing, the ministry of culture denied the German quartet a visa because they were scheduled to perform at a pro-Tibetan independence concert in 1999. In fact, Kraftwerk’s performance at the Washington DC fundraiser was ultimately cancelled because of a lightning storm.

The Beijing-based record label Modern Sky originally invited the German group to headline its three-day Strawberry music festival in late April before China’s ministry of culture denied their application.

“Kraftwerk were not allowed to play … because they participated in a Free Tibet concert,” an unnamed Modern Sky employee told Agence France-Presse. “We had already arranged the show, it’s a pity they can’t come, it’s a great shame.”

Restrictions on foreign artists
Kraftwerk thus become the latest victims of Beijing’s rigorous control of who does and does not come to entertain its youth. After turning up their noses for decades at Western rock for much of the 1980s and 1990s, China’s authorities have come to view large-scale, multi-day festivals as a useful exercise in generating both popularity and cash.

But for even the most enlightened officials, so-called social stability remains a top priority. In 2008, Björk was banned from the country after repeatedly shouting “Tibet!” during a song called Declare Independence. And after Elton John dedicated a Beijing concert to the dissident artist Ai Weiwei in November 2012, China’s cultural authorities have hardened their line on foreign musicians.

Elton John infuriated them by dedicating a performance to outspoken artist and activist Ai Weiwei, according to industry sources. Ai and John met briefly before his Beijing show. Police arrived to interview Elton John shortly after he announced that the performance was dedicated “to the spirit and talent of Ai Weiwei”, according to two sources. One said officers wanted Elton John’s manager to sign a statement saying the dedication was inspired only by admiration for Ai’s art. Elton John’s spokesman declined to comment when contacted by the British newspaper The Guardian.

At a 2011 folk festival in the city Suzhou, a large projection behind the stage displayed short messages sent by audience members — until Ai Weiwei’s name flashed across the screen. That year’s Strawberry festival was immediately cancelled, and Zuoxiao Zuzhou, a rock musician who ostensibly sent the message, was briefly detained.

The photo above shows Kraftwerk performing in Kiev in 2008 by Andriy V. Makukha on Wikimedia Commons

The Guardian / The Raw Story – 29 March 2013:
China bans Kraftwerk for cancelled performance at a 1999 Free Tibert concert
By Jonathan Kaiman

The Guardian – 10 February 2013:
China tightens concert rules after Elton John’s ‘disrespectful’ Beijing show
Officials considered ban on foreign artists without university degrees, after star dedicated gig to Ai Weiwei, say sources. By Tania Branigan in Beijing

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