This month we are reading The Protest Singer: An Intimate Portrait of Pete Seeger by Alec Wilkinson. We will have more Seeger resources to explore in an upcoming post, but among other themes, the book explores Seeger's experiences as a blacklisted musician in the 1950s and with censorship of his performance on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the 1960s. Freemuse, the independent international organization which advocates freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide, awarded Seeger their Freemuse Award in 2009 for his commitment to musicians' freedom of expression. You can hear his grandson's acceptance speech here.
This year, Freemuse has an album out (for the music lover on your holiday gift list?) called Listen to the Banned, a collection of songs from artists around the world who have faced censorship or had their music banned. Artists from Afghanistan to Zimbawe are featured and you can learn more about their music and struggles to be heard at the website for the project. Here's a glimpse of one of them, Mahsa Vahdat of Iran, the Freemuse Award Winner for 2010. Women in Iran can practice various musical forms but cannot sing in public for mixed audiences. They can participate in women-only concerts, but Mahsa Vahdat refuses to perform for women only. Here she is explaining her commitment to freedom of musical expression:
Here's a sample live performance:
Try here and here for more.