Music Freedom Day 2015 reports and media coverage


#MusicFreedomDay 2015

Music Freedom Day was celebrated on March 3. In 2015 events were held around the world including #Barcelona #Bologna #Casablanca #Dakar #Harare #Harstad #Peshawar #NewYork #Oslo.

Here are some highlights:


CBC posted three articles from 2014 on and talked about it on their national shows on 3 March:

» The Music Freedom playlist: songs of exile, protest and hope

» When the caged bird sings: making music in our darkest moments

» Bluegrass virtuoso Mike Stevens taps the power of music in Canada’s north


» Beijing Bulletin – 4 March 2015:
Pakistani Musicians Seek Government Promotion, Protection


» Musikeren – 3 March 2015:
Ytringsfrihed i musikken fejres i dag (‘Freedom of expression in music celebrated today’)
Freemuse focuses on musical freedom of expression today with international Musical Freedom Day. By Birgitte Theresia Henriksen (in Danish language)



Associazione Culturale Consonanze – Alfabetamusica – shared the photo above with the following message:

Only one motto for different generations:
“Music will not be silenced”

Myanmar / Burma

Mun Awng’s Burmese concert was held on 3 March, Music Freedom Day. The day was an initiative of Freemuse, an organisation that advocates freedom of expression for musicians, in 2007, and is a celebration of the freedom to create and to play music without intimidation or persecution.

Mun Awng became known in the 1980s for his protest songs calling for democracy, peace and an end to military rule in Burma. After taking part in the 1988 democratic uprising that was crushed by the military, he fled the country, having grown increasingly frustrated with the censorship board’s control over song lyrics. He was granted asylum in Norway, where he continued to write songs calling for democracy in Burma.

» Kolkata News – 3 March 2015:
Why these censors can’t stop the music 
On 3 March 2015, Mun Awng, a well-known Burmese exiled singer, will hold his first concert in Burma in more than 25 years. Trefford: The day was an initiative of Freemuse, an organisation that advocates freedom of expression


» Utrop – 6 March 2015:
Sanger om ikke å glemme (‘Songs about not to forget’)
Report from the event at Kirkelig Kulturverksted, in Norwegian language

» Harstad Tidende – 4 March 2015:
Slik var Music Freedom Day i Harstad
Contains video clip from the concert at the Harstad Music Freedom Day event

» Stortinget – 3 March 2015:
Stortingspresidenten åpnet konferanse om forfulgte musikere

» NRK – 3 March 2015:
Eg brukte musikken for å overleve (‘Eg uses the music to survive’)

» NRK – 3 March 2015: 
Musikere blir også forfulgt (‘Musicians are persecuted as well’)

» Harstad Tidende – 3 March 2015:
Harstad fikk friby-pris (‘Harstad gets Safe City award’)

» Harstad Tidende – 3 March 2015:
Stortingspresidenten: Harstad er en musikkby (‘Harstad is a music town’)

» Musikkultur – 2 March 2015:
Fribymusikere spiller for ytringsfrihet (‘Safe city musicians perform for freedom of expression’)

» Harstad Tidende – 1 March 2015:
Internasjonalt møte
(‘International meeting’)

» Harstad Tidende – 1 March 2015:
Spiller for fred i Midt-Østen (‘Performs for peace in the Middle East’)
Abazar Hamid is one of four safe city musicians who will be performing duing Music Freedom Day in Harstad on 3 March. Article by Åse Hjelvik (in Norwegian language)

» Distriktsprogram – Troms og Finnmark:
Morra i NRK P1

» Harstad Tidende – 26 Februar 2015:
Stortingspresidenten åpner Music Freedom Day (‘Parliament president will open Music Freedom Day’)

» Harstad Kommune – 25 February 2015:
Music Freedom Day Harstad 2015



“Pakistan musicians celebrated Music Freedom Day on Tuesday in Peshawar, with a plea to “Don’t Kill the Song.”
Singers at the event, organised by the Takhleeq Development Foundation, told VOA Deewa that religious intolerance in the region has contributed to what they argue is the government’s failure to protect Pakistani musicians and other artists from religious persecution and to promote their cultural contributions.”

» Voice of America – 3 March 2015:
Pakistani Musicians Seek Government Promotion, Protection


Event at Peshawar Press Club
Takhleeq Development Foundation (TDF) and Culture Journalists Forum (CJF) jointly organised a Music Freedom Day event at Peshawar Press Club which was attended by a good number of singers, musicians, poets, civil society, journalists, relevant government officials, music activists, artists and stake holders.

The occasion was graced by Mr Amjid Afridi, Minister for Sports, Culture & Tourism, Govt of KP, as chief guest. The event started with speeches and demands, covering topics such as freedom of artistic expression, music and conflict focusing on KP & FATA cases, announcing of culture policy, free Nishtar Hall – a culture complex which according to campaigners should be reserved for art and culture activities – renovation of Nishtar Hall, artists protection, restructuring of culture directorate, financial assistance to needy artists and musicians, and prioritising the cultural sector in KP & FATA.

Minister Afridi assured his full cooperation and agreed to all genuine demands. The event was signed off with music performances by re-noted singers. For electronic and print media coverage, kindly see video clips and links at


“The Pakhtunkhwa Cultural Foundation (PCF) organised an event at Archives Library Hall on Tuesday to commemorate World Music Freedom Day, observed every year on 3 March.
A large number of musicians performed at the event and a documentary on how militancy and the government’s apathy have affected the music industry in the province was also screened. Moreover, musicians discussed the challenges faced by them in the province.”

» The Express Tribune – 4 March 2015:
The day the music died: Government flayed for turning blind eye to music industry


» The Frontier Post – 3 March 2015:
Music Freedom Day on Tuesday

» Dawn – 3 March 2015:
Veteran Pashto singer consigned to oblivion
By Sher Alam Shinwari




“Created to celebrate Music Freedom Day, this short film is a companion to the feature length documentary They Will Have to Kill us First. Can the musicians of Mali rescue their music in exile? Featuring music from Songhoy Blues, Khaira Arby, Vieux Farka Touré and Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)”

» The Guardian – 3 March 2015:
‘There’s no life without music': the Malian musicians fighting Islamists with songs – video
The film ‘They Will Have to Kill us First’ is promoted on the Guardian homepage to celebrate Music Freedom Day.


“Freemuse and other organisations document cases of imprisonment, attacks, and censorship as various governments and non-state actors attempt to silence the music. And yet, despite these obstacles, songs of a political nature make it to the airwaves and musicians defy bans. Today we celebrate those who find a way to share their music with the rest of us.”

» IFEX – 3 March 2015:
Why these censors can’t stop the music

The Netherlands

» VPRO – 3 March 2015:
Music Freedom Day – Vier de vrijheid van muziek


United Kingdom

In Edinburgh, Radical Voices Edinburgh has monthly evenings of song and poetry with a different theme each month. The sessions are free and they ask for contributions from those who attend to give to an appropriate group or cause. On 22 March 2015, the theme was Music Freedom Day, and GBP 60 was collected for Freemuse, which has since then been donated to the organisation.


» Adventures of a Riot Grrrl – 3 March 2015:
Fight Censorship With Music Freedom Day



“The evening at Spectrum started out with music from censored artists, accompanied with information about the artists and their personal history facing censorship.”

» National Coalition Against Censorship – 5 March 2015:
Music Freedom Day in New York
By Sunna Reitov Korpe

» Star Tribune – 6 March 2015:
The information counterrevolution
Two recent reports document a worldwide decline in freedom of information. Article by John Rash

Posted on March 4, 2015 at 12:38 pm by Freemuse · Permalink · One Comment
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Music Freedom Day tweets

Posted on March 3, 2015 at 11:55 am by Freemuse · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Events scheduled for Music Freedom Day 2015

Music Freedom Day on 3 March is established as an international day to celebrate freedom of expression and to demonstrate support for persecuted and threatened artists on the music stage worldwide.

Since the freedom of expression organisation Freemuse took the initiative in 2007, more than 100 partners in 36 countries have joined, and Music Freedom Day today is an important celebration of the freedom to create and to play music without intimidation or persecution.

The following events and activities in the pipeline for Music Freedom Day 2015 on 3 March:


• Canada Broadcasting Corporation will be posting three articles on and talk about the event on their national shows on the day.

Albert Reguant

Albert Reguant


• In Barcelona, Albert Reguant, director of Les Rutes del So (The Routes of Sound), Ona Sants Montjuïc de Barcelona, is collaborating with Freemuse around Music Freedom Day for the eight consecutive year. He will be broadcasting a special radio programme devoted to the theme of the day. The show is broadcasted live every Thursday night, but on this occasion it will be re-broadcast on 3 March.
“The show will highlight a selection of musicians who have been censored or have their works censored, who have been exiled, or who are, or have been, victims of the silence of the media in their respective countries. This year the song ‘Je suis Charly’ stands out. It was composed by French songwriter FRANCIS LALANNE. Also featured: a song Syrian-Kurdish musician GANI MIRZO. The disappeared Mexican group KOMBO KOLOMBIA, killed by drug traffickers. The duet composed of singer Egyptian RAMI ESSAM and the American singer MIGHTY SAM McCLAIN. Basque songwriter BENITO LERTXUNDI and songwriters of the Catalan countries, MARIA del MAR BONET and LLUIS LLACH, singers who are marginalised today in various public radio stations in the Spanish state. The program is produced and presented by Albert Reguant, internationally recognised specialist music journalist, member of the World Music Charts Europe, and of other international organisations.”

» Podcast:



• In Bologna, among the artists who will be present on Saturday 28 February 2015 at the Circle Bertasi Via Fioravanti for the 2015 edition of Music Freedom Day – at 4pm for the conference and at 9pm for the poetry and music performances – are: Davide Ferrari, Vincenzo Bagnoli, Sergio Rotino, Marinella Polidori, Antonietta Laterza, Pierfrancesco Pacoda, Silvia Parma, Ciavatti Othello, William Pagnozzi, Cico Giramundo, Gianluca Morozzi, Oderso Rubini, Nicola Bagnoli, Pino de March, Salvatore de Siena, Salvatore Panu, and others. Admission is free. Organised by Hibrido Radio with partners.




• In Casablanca, Roots in partnership with Freemuse is organising a series of activities to promote the right to artistic expression through music under the theme headline ‘Freedom is the solution’.
Location: Rialto Cinema, Casablanca.
18:30: Opening
19:00: Screening of ‘Free Word’ directed by Stéphane Le Gall-Viliker (2014)
20:00: Concert: Monza (Mauritania)
21:00: Debate
22:00: Concert: Barry Morocco (Morocco)

All age groups: 50 DHS
Students and under 25: 30 DHS

» Facebook event page



• In Harstad, Music Freedom Day will be marked with an international conference during the day and a concert in the evening. Artists who cannot express themselves freely in their homeland will meet Nordic and local musicians on the stage in Harstad Culture House.
Organisers: SafeMuse – Safe Havens Music Initiative in cooperation with Harstad Municipality, Culture in Troms and Harstad Culture House.

• In Oslo at Kulturkirken Jakob, a Redzone Music Freedom Day Concert is organised on 3 March at 7:30pm.
International Music Freedom Day, (Founded by Freemuse) featuring: Elias Akselsen, (Norway), Vahan Kerovpyan, Murat İçlinalça and Ashug Leyli (Armenia), Dengbej Kazo and Dengbej Gazin (Anatolia), Marjan Vahdat (Iran), Kamancheh: Shervin Mohajer (Iran), Drums: Rune Arnesen (Norway), Bass: Gjermund Silset (Norway)
Tickets: NOK 250
Hausmanns Gate 14

• Also in Oslo, the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra marks Music Freedom Day: Dimitri Shostakovich stands as a symbol of the strength of art and the importance of music throughout history. In the Soviet Union he lived under constant threat from Stalin’s terror, paradoxically, while his music was essential to lift morale and exuberance in the Russian people.
The Norwegian Chamber Orchestra will mark Music Freedom Day at their concert 3 March in Oslo by playing the Chamber Symphony by Shostakovich.
» Video at



• Cultural Journalists Forum (CJF) plans to conduct a folk musical concert in Peshawar where folk singers from Fata and different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are invited to perform.

• At the Peshawar Press Club at 2 pm under the theme ‘Music will not be silenced – Warka Dang’ (Warke Dang is pashtu and means ‘play it’) Mr Amjid Afridi, Minister for Culture and Tourism in the Government of KP, will grace the occasion along with singers, musicians, stakeholders, civil society, media, guests, show business ambassadors and music industry professionals. The event will proceed with speeches followed by music performances by renowned singers from KP and FATA.

• On the same day, a 150 minutes television live talk show will be transmitted on the international satelite pashtu channel called AVT KHYBER.

• Pakhtunkhwa Cultural Foundation is organising the event ‘Don’t kill the song – Music Concert and Playing Documentaries’ on 3 March at 14:00 in Archives Hall, Peshawar.
» Facebook event page

• Journalist Sher Alam Shinwari has published a piece on the plight of cultural activities with special focus on music and musicians in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata:



• In Dakar, Africulturban celebrates the Music Freedom Day with an event about hip-hop, freedom of expression and censorship. The event takes place at the Goethe Institute starting from 4pm. Panelists: Zuman, Keyti, Fou Malade, and Bouba Sow. Free entry.

» Association Africulturban

United Kingdom

• Ulfah Arts has taken part in the Music Freedom Day event previously by doing a 24 hour broadcast. They will be doing this again for 2015. The broadcast will include artists, organisations, general public and people from around the world including Bangladesh, Bosnia and Egypt.




• The National Coalition Against Censorship, Freemuse and Spectrum present a listening party and live performance showcasing the work of at-risk, banned, and imprisoned musicians and composers from around the world. The event will take place on 3 March 2015 and will include a pre-premiere screening of an excerpt of ‘They Will Have To Kill Us First’, a documentary about the brutal suppression of music in Mali. Live performances will include Casualty Process, an electronic music project that originated in the Iranian underground, Ravenact (an NYC/Berlin duo) and a the NYC/Florida trio Burton/Beeferman/Cochrane. The evening will also feature remarks by hosts Svetlana Mintcheva, director of programs for the National Coalition Against Censorship, and Austin Dacey, creator of the Impossible Music Sessions.
Spectrum is at 121 Ludlow Street, Floor 2, Manhattan NY 10002. Subway access is easy from the F (Delancey stop), J, M and Z (Essex stop) lines.

Todd Wayne Barrow will be performing at the White Elephant Saloon Ft. Worth, Texas on 3 March 2015 at 7pm where he will mention Music Freedom Day.



• In Harare on Sunday 1 March, a big concert celebrating Music Freedom Day is planned in the townships. From 2 to 7 pm.

Freemuse has furthermore received information that events are currently being planned in Germany. Watch this space.

Posted on February 24, 2015 at 11:33 pm by Freemuse · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Download Music Freedom Day logo for poster, website or t-shirt

Technical tip
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Download logo for t-shirt

Right-click on link and select ‘Save Target As’ to start downloading the file

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Posted on February 23, 2015 at 2:00 am by Anders · Permalink · Comments Closed
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Three-minute video about music censorship

Music is a human right, but music is being censored all over the world, and musicians are being prosecuted and imprisoned. This three-minute video contains short interview excerpts and music clips with Outspoken (Zimbabwe), Roger Lucey (South Africa), Manu Chao (Spain), Kris Kristofferson (USA), Ramy Essam (Egypt), Mahsa Vahdat (Iran), Mari Boine (Norway), Didier Awadi (Senegal), Ferhat Tunc (Turkey), Khaled Harara (Palestine), Deeyah (USA / Norway).

Freemuse is the only organisation in the world advocating music creators’ rights to freedom of expression.

» Share via

Posted on January 26, 2015 at 2:31 pm by Freemuse · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Book celebrates Music Freedom Day


Are you planning activities in 2015?

During eight years of existence more than 100 partners and collaborators in 36 countries have joined the annual event Music Freedom Day, held on 3rd of March. A new publication ‘Music Freedom Day 2007–2014’ celebrates and gives examples of the powerful, united manifestation around the world.

“Over the years Freemuse has received wonderful posters and photos from many of the events. We hope this publication will inspire organisers and partners for Music Freedom Day 2015,” said Ole Reitov, Freemuse Executive Director.

Music Freedom Day activities in 2015 are already being planned in Pakistan, Egypt, Norway, Zimbabwe and Italy.

Advocacy and defence for musicians’ rights
Launched in 2007, Music Freedom Day is a manifestation to support persecuted, prosecuted and imprisoned musicians, many of whose only crime has been that they have spoken up against authorities and insisted on the right to express themselves through their music. It’s further a day to highlight the role and impact of music in our societies.

Worldwide, musicians and composers rights to freedom of expression are violated, but the strong support for Music Freedom Day every year demonstrates the will to continue the advocacy and defence for the universal rights to compose, perform and participate in musical activities.

“Freemuse invites old and new collaborators to celebrate Music Freedom Day on 3 March 2015.”
Ole Reitov, Freemuse Executive Director

Start planning now
Musicians, music promoters as well as musicians’ unions, media and freedom of expression organisations and activists are all invited to participate in this global advocacy event.

“Please inform us about planned activities and do no hesitate to consult us for ideas and inputs. Freemuse hopes we have identified all partners organising events during these past eight years,” said Ole Reitov.

“We wish to thank everyone – not least the artists – who have contributed to this annual event, and we apologise if we have missed any event or organiser. Please inform us about activities not mentioned so that we can make corrections in the second edition.”

The new publication was compiled and edited pro bono by Sunna Reitov Korpe.

cover_200px-w-shadow» Right-click and use drop-down menu to download the book (PDF, 49 pages in A4, 7.7MB)

Posted on December 1, 2014 at 2:21 am by Mik Aidt · Permalink · Leave a comment
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3 March 2015: A global event to support persecuted musicians

Get ready for Monday 3 March 2015 — the annual Music Freedom Day where freedom of musical expression is celebrated and discussed in countries all over the world.


Music Freedom Day is a powerful, united manifestation to support persecuted, prosecuted and imprisoned musicians, many of whose only crime has only been that they have spoken up against authorities and insisted on the right to express themselves through their music.

The day will be marked with events, seminars, exhibitions, film shows, radio programmes and newspaper articles on the subject of freedom of expression for musicians.

Fantastic support from musicians and fans world-wide
Musicians and composers rights’ to freedom of expression are violated worldwide, but the strong support for Music Freedom Day every year demonstrates the will to continue the advocacy and defence for the universal rights to compose, perform and take part in musical expressions.

An incredible amount of energy, enthusiasm and creativity is being channelled into this annual celebration of freedom of musical expression.

On 3 March 2014, events took place in 18 different countries. Below you can read more about what happened at Music Freedom Day 2014 as well as in the previous years.

Freemuse invites musicians, music promoters as well as musicians’ unions and music journalists to participate in this global advocacy event.

Are you ready to speak up for musician’s human rights and freedom of expression?

Then send an e-mail to Music Freedom Day’s secretariat at and share with others that you have made up your mind and decided to join this collective advocacy event.

There are many ways in which you can do something on 3 March in order to mark the day and let persecuted musicians know that they have your support. This page has some tips specifically for individual musicians who have been thinking of joining or supporting the initiative:

Download Music Freedom Day logo for poster, website or t-shirt

Music Freedom Day 2015 calendar event page on Facebook:

Freemuse’s Facebook-page:

Music Freedom Day is an advocacy event — not for Freemuse, but for the persecuted musicians. The role of Freemuse is primarily to provide coordination, knowledge and awareness.

This website for Music Freedom Day is provided as a forum for the Music Freedom Day activists and organisers.

Posted on June 8, 2014 at 2:04 pm by Mik Aidt · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Inspiration for musicians who already have a concert scheduled on 3 March

Are you a musician who already have scheduled a performance on 3 March – and would you like to join the Music Freedom Day campaign?

Music Freedom Day is an “advocacy and awareness event”. By simply including a dedication from the stage, or in a live radio interview, a presentation, or on your concert poster, you are automatically part of the global event.

Whether you are a school choir or a world famous band you can make a difference and show your solidarity with colleagues around the world who suffer from censorship, blacklisting, bans, repression, death threats, imprisonment or harassments.

Freemuse does not expect any financial contributions, but we invite bands, musicians, choirs, orchestra and individuals to join us. Should you wish to join, you are most welcome to make use of the “dedication samples” below, or create your own. If you send us a note we will also publish your name and place of the event here on our website.

You may use all our material for free, as long as you state the source: Freemuse.
(On websites preferably with a clickable link which points at or


What to say?
Here are six different suggestions to what you could tell your audience during performances on 3 March, or in the week up til 3 March. You could also place a dedication text on your poster, or on your website.
Feel free to make other dedications or to change our suggestions so they that feel right when you say them:

Dedication – example #1
“This performance is part of Music Freedom Day – an annual global event advocating freedom of musical expression. We join colleagues round the world and Freemuse – The World Forum on Music and Censorship – in their advocacy of human rights.”

Dedication – example #2
“All around the world thousands of our musical colleagues are censored by regimes who do not subscribe to musicians’ and composers’ right to freedom of musical expression.
Tonight we join thousands of music lovers in celebrating Music Freedom Day – organised by Freemuse, the World Forum on Music & Censorship.
We thank you for supporting musicians’ and composers’ right to freedom of expression.”

Dedication – example #3
“Can you imagine a country without music? Well, the Taliban in Afghanistan can. They are trying hard to stop everyone there from playing music, blowing up CD-shops with bombs, and giving fines to people who play music in their cars.
Today we join colleagues round the world and celebrate Music Freedom Day and the right to freedom of musical expression
Freemuse is an organisation advocating our rights to musical freedom. Their motto is “Music will not be silenced” – let’s join them.”

Dedication – example #4
“Imagine the world without music. Or imagine a world where we are told what to play, what to sing and even what we may listen to in the privacy of our own homes. That world already exists. In more countries that you might imagine, musicians and composers are under threat. And that threat is growing.
Today we therefore join Freemuse – the World Forum on Music & Censorship – and colleagues all over the world in the celebration of Music Freedom Day. This concert is dedicated to the freedom of musical expression, and the motto is Music will not be silenced ”

Dedication – example #5
“Music and musicians have always generated enemies. Stalin censored modern composers. Hitler banned all jazz music and music by Jewish composers. US media censored the country band Dixie Chicks, and the Taliban in Afghanistan still tries to stop all music whatsoever.
Today we celebrate Music Freedom Day – an annual global event advocating freedom of musical expression. We join colleagues round the world and Freemuse – The World Forum on Music & Censorship – in their advocacy of human rights, and we say “Music will not be silenced” ”

Dedication – example #6
“Today ( / this week) we celebrate “Music Freedom Day” together with colleagues round the world. We dedicate this concert (/ song) to our fellow musicians* who have been banned, and to the work of Freemuse – the World Forum on Music & Censorship.”
(* see list of artists )


Spread the word!

• You can place a music freedom day banner on your home page, (clickable, referring people to when they click on the banner)

• You can place a little “ad” in the signature in the bottom of your emails, saying something like:

Music Freedom Day: 3 March.

Music Freedom Day
Musicians and broadcasters participate in
a global event on the subject of music and
censorship on 3 March. Join us!

(…or simply place a little clickable banner there.)

• You can tell your musician friends about the event, about this page on, and that they can also join.

• You can spread the word by telling about this event in your private blog, in the online music forums which you are a member of, or by suggesting to your friends on Facebook that they should press ‘I like’ to

• Come up with more ideas, and send them to us.

Let us know what you plan to do, so that we can inform about it on this Music Freedom Day home page. Send an e-mail to, so we can include your name on the 2015-version of this page:


Posted on June 8, 2014 at 12:33 pm by Mik Aidt · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Reports from around the world on Music Freedom Day 2014


Picture 9

Blogpost: Music Freedom Day in Cuba



Ramy Essam at Beit El Rasef on Music Freedom Day 2014

» See the photos on Facebook




The first half hour of Spillerom was dedicated to Music Freedom Day




1) Music Freedom Day 2014 in Islamabad:

Around 200 people attended the Music Freedom Day event in Islamabad. Media coverage:


Music Freedom Day 2014 in Peshawar:

2) Music Freedom Day where musicians are persecuted persistently
Organized by Pakhtunkhwa Cultural Foundation (PCF)

» Photos uploaded on  Facebook


CJF-MFDReport14cover1253) Musicians’ voice-raising day for freedom of artistic & creative expression in Khyber Paktunkhwa
Organized by Culture Journalists Forum (CJF) and Takhleeq Development Foundation (TDF)

More than 100 senior and young artists, singers and music fans from Chitral, Hazara, Charsadda, Nowshera, Mardan, Dir, Bannu, Kohat, Peshawar and Fata attended the function and shared their views on overall situation of art and culture in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA.

» Read the detailed 9-page report about the event:  Musicians’ voice-raising day for freedom of artistic & creative expression in Khyber Paktunkhwa

» Photos uploaded on  CJF’s Facebook page:   Over 90 photos uploaded here and over 40 photos here




Australian hour on The Pulse around Music Freedom Day



“Today, numerous countries around the world are creating awareness about freedom of expression for musicians during Music Freedom Day – and Sweden is one of them. Mukryam Molod from Iraq studies at the Kungliga music adults school in Stockholm and came to Sweden for the right to express himself with his cello.”



Book Café in Harare celebrated Music Freedom Day:



IFEX were inspired by the actions to put together a story on the day, quoting Freemuse’s statistics and IFEX member reports.

Posted on March 21, 2014 at 1:02 pm by Mik Aidt · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Music Freedom Day where musicians are persecuted persistently


Music Freedom Day

March 3rd 2014

“The Right to Freedom of Artistic and Creative Expression”


Organized by: Pakhtunkhwa Cultural Foundation (PCF), Peshawar, Pakistan
Venue: Achieves and Library Hall, Peshawar
Report by: Muhammad Rome, ED, PCF, Peshawar


PCF observed Music Freedom Day in one of the most volatile region of the world in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, where the artists, instrumental players, performers and musicians are persecuted persistently. The prevailing circumstances, spreading over decades, have endangered the very art of music.

The seminar of the event affectively voiced the persecution of the artists and the threat posed to the music industry.

Opening the seminar session Amjad Shahzad, a singer and poet, highlighted the challenges face today by music. “Not only the artists are in danger but the very art itself is in threat of extinction. Sarenda, once a popular musical instrument has only one player left. With his death the art will die with him”, he lamented. “Today most of the songs recordings are limited to one electronic key board only that has caused great loss to Pashto music,” said Amjad Shahzad.

Nazir Gul, a famous musician elaborated the rug tag life of the artists and musicians. “Due to the prevailing circumstances new artists are not coming to the industry. Concerts and music in weddings have drastically reduced and the artists are struggling with their survival”. In a far cry he appealed to the government officials to create conducive environment for music or else the industry will die.

In her comments, Wagma, a popular folk singer, said “Our only source of earning livelihood is our art but it is on the track of fast decline. Sensing our miserable live youngsters are shying away from coming into music industry.”

Akber Hussain with his melodious voice revoked the old good days. The audience was full of applause for him.

Gulab Khan, a well-known rabab player, in his comments lamented that we cannot survive by the art we perform. However he was optimistic that many newcomers are joining to learn rabab and will hopefully the art of playing rabab will make progress.



Dr Khadim Hussain, Managing Director of Bacha Khan Trust Educational Foundation, analyzed the factors behind the targeting of culture. The onslaught on Pakhtun Culture spread over many decades. Culture and music are the essence and soul of a nation. If you want to enslave them destroy and capture their culture. When the soul is captured the body is enslaved. “That is why all public gathering places are targeted and a social and cultural disconnect has been created. Music being the powerful and effective tool to connect the people is purposefully targeted in spreading cultural chaos,” he said. However he was optimistic that holding such events is a sign and a ray of hope. He stressed on developing strategy, networking and fund raising mechanism to carry on with the good work. Failing so will result in stoppage of such useful activities.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, ex Information and Culture Provincial Minister and cultural activist right from his student life, elaborated his ministry initiatives for culture and music. He lamented that the sitting government has abandoned all those programmes and whatever environment was made for the revival of music and culture has once again pushed the society back into suffocation. “They [the current government] have not even specified funds in the budget for culture and music, leave apart the promotional initiative,” Mr Hussain stated.



  1. Developing strategy, networking and fund raising mechanism
  2. Need to organize artists, performers, instrumental players and musicians
  3. Establishing art academies
  4.  Introducing music in schools and Fine Arts departments


It was agreed to call upon a meeting soon to work out on the recommendations. At the end of the seminar session a documentary of 14 minutes about Pashto music was aired. After a break, live music concert was conducted. Seven singers performed with two songs each. The event was called off with thanks and a commitment to work in their own capacity to protect and promote music and the people associated to it.

» The 14-minute documentary film ‘Music cannot be silenced’ on



Senior musicians and singers attended the occasion. Concerned government officials were invited to the occasion but they did not turn up.

Earlier the event was proposed to be held in Peshawar Press Club but due conceived threats and in emergency the event was shifted to Archives Hall, Peshawar.

Due to the shifting of venue and the prevailing uncertain circumstances the audience did not turn up in throngs.

Lots of encouragement was received by PCF on holding the event.


Media links









Start Time

End Time


Introduction and welcome speech Muhammad Rome ED PCF 17:00 17:05


Pashto Music today Amjad Shahzad Art Director PCF 17:06 17:20


Stage Conductor Amjad Shahzad Singer and Anchor Continued


Artists Today Nazir Gul Musician 17:21 17:30


Comments Wagma Singer 17:31 17:36


Voice Melody Performance Akber Hussain Senior singer 17:36 17:41


Comments Gulab Famous Rubab Player


Extremism and Culture Dr.Khadim Hussain MD BKTEF 17:43 18:00


Speech Mian Iftikhar Hussain Ex Information and Culture Minister 18:01 18:16


Documentary Playing PCF Team Technical Staff 18:17 18:31




Recommendations From the Gathering Invitees 18:32 18:40


Music Concert Seven Singers Singers 19:10 20:30


Farewell and End Muhammad Rome ED PCF

2 Minutes


» This report is also available as an A4-size PDF document – for print or download

The Pashto music backdrop

The following is a description of the backdrop to the annual Music Freedom Day celebration in Peshawar. It provides an insight into the role which such an event plays to musicians and artists in Peshawar and the Pakhtun society where shrinking spaces not only endanger the artists, but threaten the survival of century-old local music traditions on both sides of the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

By Muhammad Rome

The music of a nation is a living image of their social life, attitudes, culture and way of life. Folk music is the soul of music. It is usually simple and in easy notes, equally appreciated and enjoyed by all members of a society. If a degree of classical music is added to the folk music it becomes more fascinating.

Music is so embedded in the cultural set up of Pakhtun society that at least a Tapa – a popular Pashto folk poetry meant to be sung – is remembered by each individual of the society. The social strength has kept Pashto music alive and made progress with the passage of time.

In 1893 when the Durand Line was drawn between Afghanistan and India, present day Pakistan, a challenge of social and cultural survival was faced by Pakhtuns of this side of the Durand Line. The annexed territory was used as a buffer zone by the British. Proxy wars were fought on both sides of the Line. The region has witnessed many upheavals in the past century. Today the region is one of the most dangerous zones of the world. In these harsh circumstances Pashto music was able to carry on its journey.

Pashto with Western beats
In the third quarter of last century Western music permeated into Indian music. But they have adopted it and made some very standard compositions. However, this influence is limited to theatre and film music of Bollywood. Through the film music of India, Western music gradually entered into neighboring countries. Thus Pashto music has also been affected.

Due to turbulence in Afghanistan artists and musicians sought refuge in Western countries. The assimilation has resulted in composition of high standard music in Pashto with Western and European beats and musical instruments. This experiment was successful in the context of Afghanistan because the artists and musicians there have good understanding of classical music. On the other side of Durand Line, the north west of Pakistan the Western influence has bad effects on Pashto music due to its peculiar circumstances.

The famous Ghazi Amanullah Khan gave patronage to music. He sent musicians to India for learning classical music and thus introducing classical music in Afghanistan. He himself was a good player of piano and harmonium. Academies were opened to educate youngsters in music. This official patronage started long before him and survived after him.

To the Pakistani side of Durand line there has never been state patronage. Therefore the Western music was not assimilated in the way Afghani artists have done. Sardar Ali Takkar was the first to experiment with Western and classical music. Takkar, a great artist, was successful in this experiment. After him, with exception of a few, the trend has never been successful.

Onslaught against culture
The so-called media revolution in Pakistan poses new threat to Pashto music. AVT Khyber TV, the only Pashto tv-channel in Pakistan, did more damage than service to Pashto music. Without proper compositions, new songs with Western beats were started being aired. Those who could afford recordings became singers overnight.

The current onslaught against culture and Pashto music is traced back to the then Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan. Radical Islam was introduced in both sides of Durand Line, region inhabited by Pakhtuns, to effectively restrain and defeat Soviet troops. During the period cinema halls were frequently targeted, once the most powerful artistic expression of the society has been gradually made worthless. In the process Pashto music has made great loss. As the intolerance and extremism grew spaces for cultural expression shrank.

The appearance of Taliban in 1990s, the offshoot of Mujahideen, was the beginning of dark period for Pashto music. After 9/11 when Taliban sought refuge in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa all means were deployed to discourage cultural gatherings and expressions.

The extremists capitalized upon the public understanding of music as something against the religion. This view has been propagated since 1980s through various mediums. And thus there was little resistance on the onslaught of singers, performers, artists and musicians.

Dead or exiled
On the other side of Durrand line, in Afghanistan, the decades-long and unending civil war, anarchy and turbulence has caused the decline of all fine arts. The reigns of Jihadi war-lords and Taliban were particularly suppressive and destructive for all arts and artists in Afghanistan. In past, Kabul and Kandahar were big centres of music. Singers and musicians in these cities were either murdered or forced to quit music under threats of death. Many were forced to leave their country. The consequences of all this for music were, to say the least, destructive.

A great teacher of classical music from Kandahar, Rahmani Sahib, is teaching music at a university in Denmark. Nashanas Ustaz lives in London. Other Afghan singers and musicians are scattered in the United States, Germany, India and other countries.

Insecurity and fear
The circumstances under which Pukhto music is surviving since last few years have inflicted a great damage to Pukhto music. In these years, many a singers and artists were murdered. Shabana and Ghazala Javeed of Swat and Anwar Gul of Peshawar are recent instances of killed artists.

A number of leading Pukhto singers and musicians – like Sardar Ali Takkar, Haroon Bacha and Sahib Gul Ustaz – were forced to leave the country and leave in exile. Those who couldn’t make it to free lands had no option but to quit music altogether and are now leading miserable lives. And those remaining Pukhto singers and musicians who refused to end their attachment to music are living under a continuous sense of insecurity and fear.

Need of the day: advocacy
In this backdrop there is a need of civil society to stand with art and its industry. Advocacy at all levels is the need of the day. The shrinking spaces not only endanger the artists but there is a threat to the art itself. There is now one master of sarenda, a traditional musical instrument, player left. With him the art will die.

Music Freedom Day provides a tremendous opportunity in bringing to light the importance of music within a society and discussing and sharing ideas locally and at world stage.

Creative and free expression is a key to progress. Long lasting peace can only be achieved if pluralism is duly respected and valued.

“Protect my white pigeon from the gun fire
Believe me,
the music of Rabaab will bring back peace.”

Poetry by Amjad Shahzad

Muhammad Rome is a writer and ED, Pakhtunkhwa Cultural Foundation, Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. E-mail: and

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Posted on March 12, 2014 at 12:01 pm by Mik Aidt · Permalink · Leave a comment
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