Religion & Culture

The beat goes on?

Music has always been a medium to stir up controversy — from glass harmonicas being banned briefly in the 18th century for driving people mad, to the censoring of Elvis Presley’s wiggling hips on the US-based Ed Sullivan show in 1957.  Censorship in the music industry is no relic of the past. Only this month, Egyptian authorities announced a bar on “romantic music”. Here are our favourite modern examples of banned music:

Taming the rave

Authorities in England and Wales attempted to curb the fun in 1994, introducing the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. This defined raves as “illegal gatherings,” putting a stop to any electronic music one might to listen to at an outdoor party. The Act defines banned music as including “sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.” 18 years after the act was introduced, the parties still appear in their masses — as do the police. Here’s Norfolk Police bashing away at some rave equipment following an order for destruction by request of the court:

Sensuality censored

In a bid to halt “vulgarity and bad taste”, music lovers in Cuba were hit with a tough sanction in December: a complete ban of the sexually-charged reggaeton music in the media. Other music genres with aggressive or sexually explicit lyrics will also be curbed, preventing the songs from being played on television or radio. Under legislation passed under President Raul Castro, music can be enjoyed privately, but will also be banned in public spaces — anyone discovered to be breaking the law could be subject to severe fines and suspensions. According to Cuban Music Institute boss Orlando Vistel Columbié, the music genre violates  the “inherent sensuality” of Cuban women. One of the most well-known reggaeton artists is the Puerto Rican born artist Daddy Yankee. Here’s his 2004 hit, Gasolina, which probably wasn’t an anthem for rising petrol prices:

Singing a song of silence

On 23 October 2012, Islamist militants took control of a country steeped in musical history, imposing a total ban of all genres of music in northern Mali. The rebel group jammed radio airwaves and confiscated mobile phones, replacing ringtones with verses from the Quran. Three Islamist groups linked to al-Qaeda have taken control of the northern Malian cities of Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao, banning everything they deemed to breach the religious law of Islam, Sharia. Dozens of musicians have fled the area, and many have been threatened with violence should they practice music again. Mali is famed for its rich cultural heritage and many residing there consider music akin to material wealth. Musician Khaira Arby has fled south since the crisis. Here she is with her band Sourgou:

Careless whispers from Iranian government

Iran had a pop at western music in 2005, decreeing it illegal, along with other “offensive” music. The Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council banned the music from state-run radio and TV broadcasts. The sounds of Eric Clapton, The Eagles and George Michael were often used as television background music until the ban was imposed. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad left no 80s hallmark unscathed — banning western haircuts like the mullet two years later. George Michael’s 1984 single, Careless Whisper, breaks Iranian law with both music and hairstyles:

Romancing the state

On 13 December, Egyptian authorities banned the broadcast of “romantic” music, insisting that only songs enamoured with the state would be permitted for playing on TV stations. Only nationalistic numbers can now be played on the 23 state-owned channels, and songs mocking public figures will be banned to adhere to the “sensitivity” of the political situation in Egypt. President Mohammed Morsi fervently denied that a decree granting him sweeping powers was permanent recently. Complaints have begun to surface surrounding the musical censorship, with some speculating that it was a move to mask the development of the decree. Egyptian megastar Amr Diab’s most well-known hit, Habibi Ya Nour Al Ain (Darling, You Are The Light of My Eyes), is just one of the many tunes that won’t be heard on the country’s airwaves:

Daisy Williams is an editorial intern at Index. 

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  1. Posted 27Dec12 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic post. Mad to think the Norfolk Police video was only uploaded this month, it’s more circa ’92! Thanks also for introducing me to the music of Khaira Arby also, Beautiful stuff!

  2. Posted 07Jan13 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    In 1994 the rave scene was just starting and now nearly 20 years later the rave or “EDM” scene is growing exponentially. This bubble is about to pop and “dubstep” will just become another fad.

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