A federal jury in Washington, D.C., convicted Fugees rapper Prakazrel “Pras” Michel on charges including conspiracy, witness tampering, and failing to register as an agent of China, CNN reports. Prosecutors alleged that Malaysian fugitive businessman Jho Low paid Pras roughly $100 million to influence American politics, first with illegal political payments intended to support Barack Obama’s reelection in 2012, and later to influence Donald J. Trump and his administration to end a Department of Justice investigation into Jho Low. Leonardo DiCaprio was called as a witness during the trial due to his connection with Jho Low, who helped finance DiCaprio’s film 'The Wolf of Wall Street'. Pras Michel faces up to 20 years in prison.

Folk music legend Joan Baez met two members of the Tennesee Three on a flight from Nashville to Newark on Sunday, and reacted upon her activist impulse. Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were recently expelled from the Tennessee legislature over their participation in a gun control protest, This week both have officially been reinstated to their old seats. On Sunday, when the plane landed in Newark, Baez sang two songs with Jones, the traditional freedom songs 'We Shall Overcome' and 'Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round'.

Shiny happy people
March 31, 2023

Michelle Lhooq: Thai weed is in its indie era

Thailand has recently legalized marijuana, so Michelle Lhooq, the drug & parties expert had to go visit, with her parents! Small weeds shops have opened all over the place in recent months, but they just might soon get endangered. Hugely popular US weed brand Cookies opened its first dispensary in Bangkok in January, and there are fears the market will soon be dominated by foreign companies that will put small mom-and-pops out of business. Lhooq points out that the current legal uncertainty around Thai cannabis has prevented international interests from entering the scene, however, companies like Cookies are paving the way for a franchise model where US brands team up with local partners to sell name-brand weed.

Nadya Tolokonnikova of the artist-activist collective Pussy Riot has been added to the Russian Interior Ministry’s database, which claimed Tolokonnikova faced criminal charges. However, in a somewhat Kafkian manner, the Moscow authority didn't specify what those charges are. Tolokonnikova believes the charges relate to her art, the AP reports. Tolokonnikova reportedly lives in the U.S., but she is still a Russian citizen and did not seek refugee status.

Ugandan MPs have approved an anti-LGBTQ+ bill which recommends heavy sentences – including the death penalty – for acts of homosexuality in a country where it is already illegal, Guardian reports. The underground electronic music scene in the capital Kampala has flourished in the past decade, becoming a safe space for members of the east and central African LGBTQ+ community. The London paper talked to several Ugandans from the capital affected by the incoming law change.

A great point by Matty Karas in today's newsletter about music being illegal, and weapons legal: "In Tennessee, it will be illegal as of April 1 for male or female impersonators to perform in the presence of children or within 1,000 feet or schools, parks or places of worship. This would include, for example, any male Dolly Parton impersonator who 'appeals to a prurient interest,' as plenty of the Tennessee country queen’s songs do... It’s legal, on the other hand, for most people over the age of 21 to open-carry handguns without a permit almost anywhere in Tennessee".

Hidden Element

"As a result of the upheaval, 2022 became one of the most creative and prolific years ever for Ukrainian culture and the country's music scene. The achievement was a significant one: preserving the country's unique identity" - Resident Advisor presents its selection of the best Ukrainian electronic music released since February of last year. It begins with John Object who released his ambient compilation 'Life' the very same day he joined the army ("I guess there was a good chance that was it—my life—and I'd be killed tomorrow"), and finishes with a dark electronic album 'Katakomba' by Chaosy.

A great read in Bloomberg about Pras Michél, a member of the highly successful band The Fugees, who used his celebrity status to get close to several high-ranking politicians such as Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden. He also got in contact with a high-ranking China security officer and Malaysian businessman accused of embezzlement of billions of dollars from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, blowing much of it on artwork, real estate and gifts for celebrity friends including Leonardo DiCaprio and Kim Kardashian. Pras is awaiting a trial, charged with 10 offenses, ranging from conspiracy to witness tampering and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government.

What makes us tick
March 02, 2023

The US on the way of total ban of TikTok

On Wednesday (March 1) the US House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to advance a bill that would effectively give President Joe Biden powers to ban TikTok in the US. The bill, known as the ‘Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries Act’, would also allow for the control of other China-related economic activity, if signed into law. The passage of the bill comes just days after The White House’s Office of Management and Budget issued a 30-day deadline for the app to be deleted from Federal employees devices due to national security concerns. On Monday (February 27), Canada also announced the banning of TikTok from all government-issued devices. Last week, The European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, also banned its staff from using the ByteDance-owned video app on their work phones over cyber security concerns. The European Parliament also banned its staff from using TikTok this week.

A great conversation in MJI with Lambros Fatsis, senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Brighton, about police racism and the criminalization of Black music (sub)culture(s). Here's the highlight - "My main aim is to show how and why Black music as a form of intellectual production, public expression and creativity—are not only marginalised in the relevant academic literature, but also criminalised by law enforcement... Simply put, that which is policed as different, alien and inadmissible is that which threatens and endangers the established social order."

"In recent years, Kyiv’s vibrant and progressive dance scene earned the city the nickname 'new Berlin'. Amazingly, the war hasn’t stopped the scene from thriving, and many Ukrainian DJs and promoters have managed to make the most out of the dire circumstance" - Vice goes to Ukraine to check the pulse on the nation's clubbing scene. Harry Pledov, musician and event organiser, believes partying is important since it provides a feeling of normalcy - "as the war drags on, everyone understands the importance of partying.” Also, he notes that the war has given the Ukrainian electronic music scene a huge boost - “International DJs no longer dare to come because of the shelling. And we’ve gotten rid of anything related to Russian culture – the songs, videos and movies that were popular. We now see it as our mission to fill that gap with Ukrainian culture.”

Crime and punishment
February 22, 2023

Russia's music scene losing the war to state repression

"Since the war with Ukraine, dissenting Russian bands have been canceled en masse, including many of the scene's original founders. Bands who faced censorship, harassment and intimidation during the Soviet days are now experiencing the same thing some 40 years later" - Bandsplaning looks beyond the Russia-Ukraine frontline and into the ever-shrinking freedom of expression the Russian musicians are facing. Since the start of the war a year ago, according to one promoter, around 30% of Russian domestic performers left the country or stopped performing.

Guardian shares an important piece about a rap group P38-La Gang, that touches on the essential issue of freedom of speech. The Bologna-based band who go by the stage names Astore, Jimmy Pentothal, Dimitri and Yung Stalin, are between 25 and 33. They describe the idea behind the group as “very simple: creating a far-left and communist form of trap,” a counter-narrative to the “individualistic, gangsta-mafia and misogynistic” themes of Italian trap. On 25 November, the band members were identified by police and had their homes searched. They are currently under investigation by the Turin prosecutor’s office, accused of instigation to commit a crime, with an aggravating circumstance for terrorism. Their concerts are routinely cancelled, with venue managers fearing police reprisals. The band denies they're terrorists: "While the Italian music scene is overrun by very explicit references to rape, the trafficking of large-scale narcotics and mafia crimes in lyrics sung by the most listened-to artists, we are the ones being investigated because we refer to the Years of Lead.” (Social turmoil during the 1970s and 1980s when Red Brigades, the far-left terrorist group, shocked Italy with kidnappings, kneecappings and more than 80 political assassinations).

Breaking the dance
February 01, 2023

Iran dancing couple sentenced to 10 years in jail

An Iranian couple in their 20s have been given jail sentences totalling 10 years after posting a video of themselves dancing in the street in Tehran. Astiazh Haqiqi, 21, and her fiance Amir Mohammad Ahmadi, 22, were arrested after they posted the video to their Instagram accounts, which have a combined following of nearly two million. Haqiqi and Ahmadi are said to be convicted of "promoting corruption and prostitution, colluding against national security, and propaganda against the establishment". They were also handed a two-year ban on using social media and leaving the country. Dancing in public is illegal for women in Iran, as is men and women embracing, and women leaving their hair uncovered.

"I think art is the best medium for this awareness. Art comes from the heart, the pain and the suffering. I know that’s the case for me and other artists doing amazing work right now. The truth of my work is what is happening in Iran right now. I am just mirroring it" - Iranian rapper Säye Skye says in a Mix Mag interview about using revolutionary rap in the current protests in Iran. "The regime takes these mediums, and deals with them, very seriously. They know that having a podium and speaking the truth of the people can resonate with society, it can unite communities and that’s what they are afraid of. For the past 40 years the regime has been trying to diminish the power and value of art."

"The first thing you learn as a Palestinian is that you’re probably going to die. You have to engage a little bit extra because life could be over in 10 minutes” - DJ Sama' Abdulhadi says in a Guardian interview. Talking to Resident Advisor, she goes a step further: "We're human beings before anything else, and it's our trauma that creates our music and makes us who we are. It's just normal life for us, which is sad, because we're much more than that". She says her goal is to bring the world closer to Palestine—and Palestine closer to the world. Sama' Abdulhadi's short documentary, 'Portrait of Sama' Abdulhadi', will premiere online January 31st.

Travel to, and transit through, Europe is difficult for Africans. The top three countries with the highest Schengen visa rejection rates are from the continent: Guinea-Bissau had 53% of its applications rejected, Senegal 52% and Nigeria 51% - Guardian looks into the problem of African musicians trying to play in Europe. To get a Schengen visa, a host of documents is required, and can include bank statements, return flights, addresses while abroad, travel insurance policies, and the threshold is getting higher and higher.

Guys doing their job
January 10, 2023

A great message by Dr. Dre's lawyers to a politician

Lawyers for Dr. Dre sent a cease-and-desist letter to congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene threatening her with legal action after she used the rapper’s 1999 smash hit 'Still D.R.E.' without permission in a social media post, Billboard reports. “One might expect that, as a member of Congress, you would have a passing familiarity with the laws of our country" - lawyers wrote.

It all started promising. In July last year, a UK cross-Parliamentary committee called for a “complete reset” of music streaming following an inquiry into the economics of streaming. Some lobbyists in the UK music business suggested that artists and songwriters weren’t pocketing enough money from streaming services, and accused certain music companies of holding on to outsized profits from royalties. The final 165-page report came as a cold shower, saying that it has not “found evidence of substantial and sustained excess profits by the majors that could be competed away to benefit consumers, for example through more investment in music”. MBW reports on the outc

Ramy Essam, Egyptian musician and revolutionary

Mark Levine, author of 'We’ll Play Till We Die' and 'Heavy Metal Islam' looks into the power of music in Muslim countries. "The training and skills necessary to create a DIY music scene in a culturally and politically hostile culture overlapped significantly with the skills needed to create independent political subcultures capable of challenging and transforming patriarchal and authoritarian systems"- Levine writes. However, "looking back on the last two decades, it was clear that while music and art can help make revolution irresistible to large numbers of people, they don’t make its success inevitable or even likely. States often ramp up violent repression and deploy equally powerful aesthetic and affective tropes, imagery, narratives and identities to counteract the power of art".

'Woman Life Freedom' is a song released by the Iranian-born Netherlands-based musician Sevdaliza which she wrote for "oppressed women around the world. I stand proud as an Iranian woman and I am supporting the fight of my sisters who shed their blood, hair, hearts and brains to give us all the hope, that one day, we will be free. At a young age I became aware of the systematic means of forcing women into obedience through violence and intimidation. To persuade women that their minds, bodies, and freedom do not belong to them. Our humanity demands we stand up against the oppression of women. Now. And forever. We must continue to speak up and fight institutions that condone oppression, violence and murder. We must face the people that deny the dignity and respect for all of us women. We are so tired of being told how to be, what to be".

Russian soldiers have shot dead Ukrainian conductor Yuriy Kerpatenko in his home in Kherson after he refused to take part in a concert in the occupied city, Classic FM reports. The concert on 1 October was intended to feature the Gileya chamber orchestra, of which Kerpatenko was the principal conductor. “The tragic irony of this is that talk about the superiority of Russian culture, its humanism. And here they murdered someone who is actually bringing beauty to people’s lives. It is sickening" - said the conductor Semyon Bychkov from Paris, where he was performing as music director of the Czech Philharmonic. The St Petersburg-born conductor left Russia as a young man in the 1970s. Kherson is a port city in Ukraine, and was the first to fall to Russian troops at the beginning of the war. Kerpatenko was one of the city’s residents who refused to leave. From February to May 2022, the conductor posted public messages on his Facebook profile, speaking out against the Russian invasion.

Burning words
October 14, 2022

Jamaica bans music glorifying crime

Jamaica's broadcasting agency has banned music that "glorifies illegal activity" - such as drug and gun use, the BBC reports. The ban covers TV and radio and lists specific topics that are off-limits - scamming, drug abuse and the illegal use of firearms. Swearing or "near-sounding" replacements are also banned. Some artists who argue music is a reflection of life have criticized the ban.

“Today, in wartime, our community is starting to make itself visible again. New parties awaken memories of a long-forgotten phenomenon: life” - Kyiv-based photographer Arthur Vovchenko and Anna Lukash told Mix Mag after STEZHKA, queer party, was held on the first weekend of October. “We are going through very dark times, so parties are valued differently now. I feel that the community needs this space, we need to see each other, kiss, talk, and dance in order to support each other and ourselves” - Arthur says.

"Among Kanye’s West’s defenders, the thinking goes like this: He is a genius, a freethinker, an elevated conscience" - The New York Times' opinion piece goes. However - "Kanye is just a Black man who discovered Black conservatism and thinks it’s enlightenment. There is nothing complex or mysterious about it. He’s a Black man parroting white supremacy, while far too many brush it off, continue dancing to his music, and wear his clothes. West is a Black man sampling vintage anti-Black racism, remixing and releasing it under a new label: the tortured Black genius".

Protests in Iran over the death of 22-year-old Iranian-Kurd Mahsa Amini entered a fourth week in defiance of a bloody crackdown. Amini died on September 16, three days after she was arrested by “morality police” for an alleged breach of Iran’s strict dress code for women. The nonprofit Iran Human Rights estimated that at least 154 people, including children, have been killed in the protests. Pitchfork points out to the de facto anthem of protests - 'Baraye', written by the 25-year-old singer Shervin Hajipour. The song’s lyrics are composed of crowdsourced social media posts from Iranians - “For my sister, your sister, our sister ... For dancing in the alleys ... For terror when kissing ... For women, life, freedom” - with each line beginning with “Baraye,” which translates to “Because of…” or “For…” in Farsi.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act, which limits the ways an artist’s lyrics can be used against them as evidence in criminal cases, the LA Times reports. The bill establishes a presumption that lyrics have minimal value as evidence. It covers all forms of creative expression but is especially salient for hip-hop artists, whose slice-of-life lyrics have frequently been cited by prosecutors in criminal trials as proof of guilt. The bill has been championed by the hip-hop community, the music industry and free-speech advocates.

No Russian circles
April 18, 2022

Is there a point in cancelling Russian artists?

Alexander Malofeev

The Walrus looks into the wave of cancelling shows by Russian artists in tbh West: "If they have any impact at all, the cancellations may play into the Russian regime’s narrative about the 'hostile' acts of the 'collective West'—a characterization of NATO that serves as a philosophical counterpoint, socioeconomic scapegoat, and Russophobic supervillain in Putin’s rhetoric. To the extent that the Kremlin is aware that there’s a little less Tchaikovsky being played or that a Russian kid isn’t touring, the cancellations are serving as confirmation that the West is waging a cultural war against Russia. But the impact on artists is potentially significant, not least because artists are already usually in a state of financial precarity. Undermining them professionally, silencing their work, and pressuring them to speak out against the war at their own risk not only fails to do anything to support Ukraine, it’s also unfair to the artists, many of whose work tends to be antiwar".

Bridge over troubled brexit
April 14, 2022

UK suspends post-Brexit rules for music truckers

The U.K. government has agreed to temporarily suspend post-Brexit “cabotage” rules for some music haulers, following warnings from live-industry executives that the regulations were placing more than 100 European summer tours at risk, some of which have already been cancelled. The relaxation of rules allows some of the U.K.’s biggest trucking firms to work and travel freely across Europe by temporarily switching their vehicles from an EU operator’s license to a U.K. one for the home leg of a tour. Since January of 2021, truckers in both regions have been subject to the cabotage rules, which require haulers to return to the EU or the U.K. — wherever their business is based — after making three stops in the other market, NME reports.

Beth Gibons of Portishead

Pink Floyd have released a new song 'Hey, Hey, Rise Up!' featuring Andriy Khlyvnyuk of the Ukrainian band Boombox. The lineup on the track includes David Gilmour and Nick Mason with bassist Guy Pratt and keyboardist Nitin Sawhney, Guardian reports. 'Hey, Hey, Rise Up!' is the first original music from the band since 1994’s 'The Division Bell'. In similar news, Portishead will regroup next month for their first show in seven years, playing a short set as part of a War Child benefit concert supporting relief efforts in Ukraine, Consequence reports.

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