European Music Council
November 06, 2019
The right for all children and adults ...

... to express themselves musically in all freedom

This session on the First Right closed the World Forum on Music after three intense days with all participants, speakers & delegates. Curated by Ian Smith (President of the European Music Council),  the session was very inspirational and offered a blend of personal experiences and suggestions of action. We encourage you to look at our follow-up appeal here to reach out to and support persecuted artists all around the world.
Discover our first post-event newsletter on the 6th World Forum on Music organised last September in Paris, France.
More to follow!
Introduction to the First Right
The session started with an introduction from Ian Smith, European Music Council President and Jan Lothe Eriksen, SafeMUSE project manager. Ian Smith' first encounter with music freedom was when touring with his orchestra in pre-Solidarnosc Poland in 1976 where he encountered fellow professional horn players who were not allowed, even as a 25 year old, to own a first-class instrument or to travel and work freely, be it only throughout Europe. Jan Lothe Eriksen cited a recent example of musicians being persecuted in their home countries for simply making music. They highlighted the importance of finding  « Safe Havens » for musicians who are unable to work and live freely in their countries of origin. This includes both Ramy Essam and Farzane Zamen. Ramy Essam is now based in Finland whilst Farzane Zamen is in Glasgow, Scotland.
Panel chaired by Louise Mitchell
Panelists were asked to state what the right of expressing themselves musically in all freedom actually meant to them individually. Different perspectives were brought to light: Phloeun Prim talked about his work with IMC Music Rights Champion Arn Chorn-Pond in Cambodia and shared insight into the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge and the situation in Cambodia today. The fact that music survived at all when so many musicians perished is in itself both inspiring and challenging. Phloeun Prim directed the film "Wandering Souls" and he drew on that experience when talking about freedom under cruel dictatorships and now under democratically elected governments.
Roufaida Aboutaleb  was born into a Moroccan Muslim family in The Netherlands. She represented the young voice of tomorrow on the panel and spoke about the conflict of the bicultural generation that she's part of. She said she enjoyed the freedoms of our "Western" society whilst respecting the principles enshrined in her Muslim upbringing. It was impressive to witness her honesty and questioning the values of what freedom meant and how it was prone to differing interpretations depending on your own circumstance.
Alison Russo plays an important role as the director of the Artist Protection Fund based in New York. Alison Russo has had many years of experience in finding opportunities for artists, not only musicians to relocate, where necessary and sometimes essential, to places where they can live and work without fear of interference from state and/or public. She outlined many of the successes of the fund investing in safer opportunities for artists and that included, most recently, Farzane Zamen.
Testimonies of musicians
Both Farzane Zamen and IMC Music Rights Champion Ramy Essam were encouraged to "tell their story" & perform some songs that meant something special to them both.
When sharing her experience, Farzane Zamen realigned our thinking of what was freedom. She felt free when she was at home in Tehran with her family, but couldn't be free in her musical performances and writing, so had to leave. Her clip of Tehran, filmed covertly, opened many eyes in the room and her singing in her mother tongue was both poignant and moving.
To say that Ramy Essam spoke from the heart would be a gross understatement - he spoke with passion and with fervour that was matched in his singing. He still cannot release material in some parts of the world and especially in Egypt, but he will never stop expressing himself "in all freedom" whatever the consequences. Both musicians’ testimonies were inspirational and reminded us that music can break down many barriers, but sadly not all.
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