Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bjork in China

This is an interesting article about Bjork's concert in China where she made a connection between her song Declare Independence and Tibet. Chinese officials have reacted in a predictable way indicating that in future, international artists may be restricted from performing in the country. Bjork's comments were not reported in the State controlled media.

Bjork states that she is a musician not a politician and that the song was written with the personal in mind. Nonetheless the song has been connected with political struggles in the past including Kosovo and with respect to territories controlled by Denmark. She states:

...the fact that it has translated to its broadest meaning, the struggle of a suppressed nation, gives me much pleasure. I would like to wish all individuals and nations good luck in their battle for independence...

The event raises some interesting points about the place of international artists in what some consider to be domestic politics, as well as the effectiveness of censorship in China today.

Another article I read discussed the negative reaction of many Chinese people who used the internet to express concern at the comments. Similar sentiments were reported in other articles, which on the face of it suggests that the internet has, to a small extent, been able to overcome the censorship of the State media with individuals not at the concert learning of the event. However, no reports have been made indicating that some Chinese citizens support Bjork's statements. One can only wonder whether these voices are non existent or in fact are being silenced. Reports of concert goers leaving in a hurry following the comments indicates a fear of retribution and independent reports indicate that there is still significant opposition to China's occupation of Tibet. With local artists unable to express political views, only those from the outside can. No doubt in the future this will be made even more difficult. The National Democratic Party of Tibet has thanked Bjork for raising awareness of the plight of Tibetans:

"Bjork´s song dedication has been very beneficial to us by drawing attention to what is still happening. Through her action the world and its media can not forget us and must watch over us as we begin our peaceful 'March to Freedom' on the 10th of March from Dharamsala back into Tibet - all the way to Lhasa. Over 20,000 exiles are expected to attend by the time we attempt to cross the border into Tibet."

This seemingly small form of protest illustrates the power of music to convey a political message. The relationship between music and politics is too often characterised in a simple light. It is a complex dynamic that takes many forms, from the most obvious to the most minute and obscure, often arising when you least expect it.

BoingBoing have a copy of the clip here.
More reports on the event are available here.

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