Listen to the Banned is a music CD bringing together musicians who have been banned, censored or imprisoned due to their music. It features artists from Afghanistan, Cote D’Ivoire, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Pakistan, Palestine, Sudan, Turkey, Uyghuristan and Zimbabwe. This project was put together by Freemuse, an international organization advocating freedom of expression for music, and Deeyah, a Pakistani-Norwegian musician who after years of suffering harassment for choosing music as her livelihood who has now dedicated herself to promote human rights and freedom of expression.
They've been using social networks to let people know about the CD and the stories behind each one of the musicians featured. Their website has each artist's bio. On twitter, the reality of the album's title comes to the forefront: they post about musician's upcoming hearings, attacks on some of the artists during concerts and reminders of efforts to free a musician from prison. On Facebook they post updates and receive support from fans, and on YouTube they've posted samples of each of the musician's songs in the album.
Take for example Farhad Darya, who less than a week ago had a concert in Kabul for Afghan women celebrating the International Peace Day. That day, as the concert came to a close, a bomb went off in the parking lot and injured 13 people :
To millions of Afghans, Farhad Darya symbolized the return of music after the Taliban’s fall in 2001. The Taliban banned music, films, and television in Afghanistan during their rule from 1996 until they were overthrown in 2001. After the Taliban’s fall, one of the first voices heard on radio was Farhad Darya who has been one of the most influential musicians on the popular Afghan music scene since the mid -1980’s. He went into exile when the Taliban ruled the country, but remained popular with millions of Afghans.
Mahsa Vadat comes from Iran. When the Islamic Revolution in 1979 resulted in many restrictions for musicians. Since female musicians had to sign an agreement not to sing in public, she only performs outside Iran. Sadly, some things haven't improved much for women since:
Today in Iran, women can practice various musical forms but they cannot sing in public for mixed audiences. They can participate in for-women-only concerts, some of which the Ministry of Culture organises annually. Women can also sing in the company of a male singer or as part of a choir. Mahsa Vahdat refuses to perform for women only. Thus her concerts are held outside Iran.
Lapiro De Mbanga from Cameroon is currently in prison, charged with causing youth unrest when his song “Constipated Constitution” was unofficially used in protests:
Amid nationwide strikes and mass demonstrations, Lapiro composed the song “Constitution Constipée,” (Constipated Constitution), in which he describes the country’s president, Paul Biya, as “caught in the trap of networks that oblige him to stay in power even though he is tired.” The song became an unofficial anthem of the protests, and Lapiro was arrested and charged of inciting youth unrest. In September 2009, he was sentenced three years imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of 280 million CFA francs (640,000 US dollars) as compensation for damage caused during the riots.
From Zimbabwe comes Chiwoniso Maraire:
Originally a strong supporter of President Robert Mugabe’s land reforms in Zimbabwe, Chiwoniso Maraire started openly criticizing the lack of competence, the increasing corruption and lack of free speech. After experiencing uncivil interrogations by the police, she decided to leave Zimbabwe in 2007.
You can read more about the artists’ stories and hear samples of the music on Listentothebanned.com