Music Freedom Day salutes Arab demonstrators

Thu Mar 3, 2011 5:19am EST
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By Jason Rhodes

ZURICH (Reuters Life!) - Musicians in the Middle East will pay tribute to the Arab uprising and commemorate the death of an Egyptian musician during the Cairo demonstrations as part of this year's international Music Freedom Day on Thursday.

Music Freedom Day, the brainchild of Freemuse, an independent organization advocating freedom of expression for music makers worldwide, is bringing together artists in over 20 countries to highlight the plight of colleagues around the globe who suffer censorship, imprisonment and even death.

"It may not be difficult to silence the individual musician but you can't really silence their songs," Freemuse co-founder Ole Reitov told Reuters by phone. "We've seen with many of the songs or singers that have had problems that although they may put the musicians in prison, their songs somehow survive."

The event kicked off with concerts in Mumbai and Kabul and ends with a session in New York and special broadcasting programs in Canada after events in Egypt and Lebanon paying tribute to Egyptian musician Ahmed Basiouni, who died on the fourth day of demonstrations in Cairo earlier this year.

Freemuse was founded in the late 1990s to document censorship in music, raise awareness of the problem and offer support to the musicians and their families.

"Artists all over the world would speak up for all kinds of things but they never spoke out about their own conditions, so we would have writers speaking out on behalf of Salman Rushdie but you never heard Bono or Youssou N'Dour or anyone else talking about all the repression that took place with some of their colleagues," Reitov said from his office in Copenhagen.


While huge organizations like Amnesty International campaign on behalf of political prisoners, Freemuse, which has just six full-time and part-time staff and struggles for funding, remains the only international organization dedicated to campaigning against music censorship.   Continued...