Music Notes July 2018

Shakira won’t play in Israel

In early May, Israeli media announced that Colombian pop superstar Shakira would being giving a concert in Tel Aviv on July 9. But after a concerted effort by thousands of Palestine solidarity activists – including 15,000 signatures gathered by the U.S.-based Jewish Voices for Peace – the singer’s concert promoter announced on May 29 that there would be no show. The Lebanese-born singer, songwriter, and dancer has sold 170 million records. At 41, Shakira remains one of the most popular performers in the world. She’s also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and a prominent campaigner for children’s rights. In 2011, at the invitation of former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, she attended a bilingual school in Jerusalem where a relatively small number of Israeli and Palestinian children – Jews, Muslims and Christians – study together in Hebrew and Arabic. Now, despite the absence of an explicit statement, it seems clear that Shakira has shifted from her non-partisan 2011 stance towards one of solidarity with the freedom struggle of the Palestinian people. The recent IDF massacres of peaceful Palestinian protesters at the Gaza border and the illegal move of the U.S. embassy to AlQuds/Jerusalem, have shaken many liberal defenders of Israel. Jewish Voices for Peace, a grassroots group with over 70 chapters, is calling upon BDS supporters to send messages to Shakira, thanking her for the support, so that she can get the backup she needs “in the face of certain backlash.” Progressive U.S. website Mint Press News ( reports that BDS activists, while praising Shakira, are urging her to make a stronger statement of commitment to BDS. (

Roger Waters: “BDS is not anti-Semitic”

As the BDS campaign gains more sympathizers around the world, the Israeli state is  intensifying its efforts to characterize the campaign as anti-Semitic. A prime target is British musician Roger Waters, a long-time pro-Palestine activist and founder of the renowned rock band Pink Floyd. Given his outspokenness, and the size of the crowds at his concerts, everywhere Waters performs becomes a front-line in the BDS campaign. Last December, five public TV and radio stations in Germany vowed not to promote his upcoming concerts this summer, citing charges of “anti-Semitism” against him. Waters responded to the charges at his June 1 concert in Berlin, with a speech criticizing Israel’s policies towards Palestinians and calling upon Germany to refrain from criminalizing the BDS movement. In a reference to the rise of racism and anti-Semitism in Germany (and elsewhere), Rogers told concert-goers that “all anti-Semitism is obscene”. He then quoted a passage from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declaring that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and human rights”. Felix Klein, the German government’s commissioner responsible for leading the country’s fight against anti-Semitism, has argued that BDS is anti-Semitic. But, says Waters, the BDS campaign is a human rights issue, and Palestinian and Jewish activists who oppose the Israeli state’s policies are not against the Jewish people. On June 16 Waters announced that he’s taking legal action against the city of Munich, demanding that its mayor, Dieter Reiter, retract statements made in a press release which characterized him as an anti-Semite. Elsewhere, recent developments suggest that the BDS movement is growing stronger. In Spain, for example, the city of Oviedo has cancelled a scheduled visit by an Israeli orchestra and ballet group, and the city of Valencia has passed a motion declaring itself “an Israeli-apartheid-free zone”. Meanwhile, another prominent musician, Brazil’s Gilberto Gil, has cancelled a show in Israel.

2018 Songlines world music awards

Songlines, the U.K.-based world music magazine, has announced the winners in the geographical categories of its 10th annual Songlines Music Awards. The monthly journal describes itself as “the definitive magazine for world music – music that has its roots in all parts of the globe, from Mali to Mexico, India to Iraq”. If you’re interested in exploring the rich world of music that exists beyond the boundaries of corporate pop, Euro-classical and jazz, Songlines has much to offer. The 2018 awards are for best recordings in five regional categories: Africa & Middle East, the Americas, Asia & Pacific, Europe, and “Fusion” (the latter for recordings that crossed regional boundaries). Winning artists: Malian singer Oumou Sangaré (Africa & Middle East), American singer Rhiannon Giddens (Americas), South Korean band Black String (Asia & Pacific), and U.K. group Eliza Carthy and the Wayward Band (Europe). Other nominees who captured my imagination include Syrian qanun (a 78-string zither) virtuoso Maya Youssef and Australian Indigenous singer-songwriter Archie Roach. Four additionalSonglines awards – for Best Artist, Best Group, Newcomer, and World Pioneer – will be announced on October 20 at a ceremony in Brixton, U.K.  Read about all of these artists and sample their music at

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