Press release: WOMEX 2003

1 October 2003

Music as a basic human right is in focus at WOMEX – The WOrld Music EXpo – in Sevilla, Spain, 22 – 26 October 2003 

This year’s WOMEX Award is honouring international human rights organization Freemuse – The World Forum on Music and Censorship for its fight against music censorship.Freemuse was founded in 1998 and is dedicated to uphold the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights by funding reports, creating a database of information and taking up cases of individual musicians in trouble.

At WOMEX Freemuse will present the current case of the Cuban musician Gorki Carrasco, who on 15 August 2003 was formally convicted for drug trafficking and sentenced to four years imprisonment. However the circumstances leading to his arrest at a rock festival in Pinar Del Río in April this year were such that no evidence of drug trafficking was presented.Freemuse is now launching an international campaign for the release of Gorki Carrasco.

Music censorship comes in many forms (corporate, governmental, religious, etc.) At this year’s WOMEX, Freemuse will also focus on the issues of cultural boycott and on freedom of musical expression post-September 11 in two conference sessions. On the closing day – Sunday 26 Oct – Freemuse will host a concert with Amal Murkus and her band in connection with the WOMEX Award ceremony. (More info below).

You can meet Freemuse at WOMEX at our stand: E4

In the western part of our world freedom of musical expression is often taken for granted. But recent events (September 11, the war in Iraq) has caused that threats to freedom of musical expression is no longer a developing country phenomenon only, but very much present in the western world today. In the US the Dixie Chicks had their albums destroyed at public rallies, after their lead singer expressed concern about the war on Iraq.

And the self-censorship among musicians and composers, which have been documented in Freemuse reports on Zimbabwe and Nigeria, is slowly spreading. As Blur’s Damon Albarn said at a Freemuse press conference at the Roskilde Festival, Denmark in June this year:

“True censorship is something that we are not really aware of on a day-to-day basis; it’s something that’s inherent in the system. There’s an ever increasing element of that censorship, a sort of covert censorship going on everywhere. I think the fact that music is so closely related to economics now means that people do the censorship themselves.”

The importance of music and freedom of expression was poignantly articulated at the press conference by Nigerian legend Tony Allen:

“The only way you can attack this government and change things is through songs.”

WOMEX Award ceremony – Sunday 26 Oct, 14.00 – 16.00:
The award ceremony includes a showcase with Amal Murkus.

Amal – Palestinian singer born and living in Israel – and rejected by every major Israeli record company, has set new standards in expressions based on cross Mediterranean influences.Amal, singing in Arabic of suffering, sadness and hope, is constantly on the forefront in the fight against the exclusion and marginalisation of Arab music and culture by Israeli media.

Amal took part in the 2nd World Conference of Music and Censorship, September 2002, organized by Freemuse and are actively involved in the fight for freedom of musical expression – the very “raison d’etre” of Freemuse.

  The Womex Award
The WOMEX Award
Interview and live recording with Amal Murkus (recorded at The 2nd World Conference on Music and Censorship);

Freemuse conferences:
Friday 24 Oct, 12.00 – 13.00: Cultural Boycott – of any use?
The culture boycott of South Africa is claimed to have played an important role in the World Community’s attitude to the racial regime and the anti-apartheid struggle as such.
The recent UK initiative to boycott Israel is controversial, so is the Arab initiative to boycott cultural events which include Israeli artists.
In June the EU announced that it will impose a range of diplomatic- and cultural sanctions against Cuba over its recent human rights record.
More than 75 “political activists”, including musicians, have been imprisoned during 2003 and Cuban musicians are boycotted by the US government.
Are culture boycotts or sanctions of any use and how do they affect/damage local and international collaborations?

Ian Smith (UK)
Ariana Hernandez-Reguant (Spain/USA)
Amal Murkus (Palestine/Israel)
Jonathan Walton (UK)
Moderator: Ole Reitov, Freemuse

Saturday 25 Oct, 12.00 – 13.00: Post September 11
“September 11” has even affected musicians, festival- and tour organizers in different parts of the world. Visa problems, threats, disrupted tours, changed play-lists, nationalistic concerts and withdrawal of covers are just a few results. This session reveal and discuss the effects and suggest possible actions.

Kutay Derin Kugay (USA)
Clara Hsu (USA)
Isabel Soffer (USA)
Phil Stanton (UK)
Moderator: Gerald Seligman (USA)



Home / News / Press release: WOMEX 2003