Technology, Music, and Freedom of Expression

From Salman Hameed of Irtiqa:

I just came across Mark Levine’s recent post about the way the music of an underground Iranian group, The Plastic Wave, was performed in Brooklyn by another group, Cruel Black Dove. (As Levine writes: “The fact that The Plastic Wave is led by a female singer eliminates any possibility of the band playing live in Iran outside of clandestine parties, as women are not allowed to sing alone in front of mixed audiences.”)
Banned at home and denied a visa by the U.S. consulate (in Dubai), members of The Plastic Wave watched their music being performed live in Brooklyn, over the Internet:

Freemuse, joined by the Center for Inquiry, and a new organization, the Impossible Music Sessions, teamed up to provide a forum that would highlight the band’s plight. Unlike the major human rights organizations, all three understood that while we might take the freedom of music for granted, creative expression is limited by censorship, intimidation, and cultural pressures in many places, and so those of us lucky enough to have that freedom need to help expose—and in doing so, offer at least some protection for—artists who cannot appear and the music that they are not free to make.

While relatively small in size, the concert, at one of Brooklyn’s premier performance spaces, Littlefield, will certainly go down in the annals of rock history for being the first time that a rock group has watched another group perform its music on a system like ooVoo because it was not allowed either to come themselves to perform. And it was clear that the artists and audience understood the significance of the evening.

This is fascinating, and it again shows that the Internet is changing the world profoundly and in ways that are difficult to predict. And change seems to be in the Iranian air as well, though the process and the pace may be uncertain.

In this slow, drawn out struggle, culture will play an increasingly important role in the battle for the hearts and minds of the tens of millions of young Iranians who are the country’s future. And Iran’s burgeoning youth music scenes clearly understand, as the great Nigerian afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti declared, that “music is the weapon of the future.”
The more they can engage with each other, and with fans worldwide through software like ooVoo, the more powerful the impact of the music will be, and the greater the chance that in five or 10 years time, bands like The Plastic Wave will live in an Iran where playing music live is no longer a crime.

Here is a nice short video about this affair that allows you to put faces to this story:

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