and the [BANNED] played on: deeyah

She sheds her burka – one moment completely concealed in black robes – to standing at the edge of a swimming pool wearing heels and a bikini…

For young music artist Deeyah, born of Afghan and Pakistani parents, it may have seemed a provocative act to perform in a music video. For audiences made cynically accustomed to hearing about censorship in the Muslim world, such expression would seem an unsurprising and obvious target for censors. Yet Deeyah, born in supposedly liberal modern Norway, has faced censorship in her own country since she was 7 years old.

Before 2006, when censorship forced her retreat from the concert stage, Deeyah was a chart success both in Norway and in Britain, a classically-trained musician in the traditions of Pakistan and North India, while threading her unique bell-like vocals into modern pop and contemporary song. This multicultural background has lead to rare musical distinctions, the only female ever to be trained by classical maestros like Ustad Sultan Khan while pop-sampled by music stars including Janet Jackson.

For Deeyah however, her talents and her troubles began from childhood, the moment she started to perform. While her father keenly encouraged her to play music, many Muslims who had left their home countries for Norway expressed displeasure that a girl should be making public performances. From albums like the critically acclaimed Deepika, she caused uproar by dancing with men in videos, finding herself the target of death threats, abuse, pepper spray at concerts and an attempted abduction. It was a violent non-government censorship that followed subsequent career moves to Britain, continuing to dog her concert career.

The ‘burka-to-bikini scene’ from song  “What Will it Be’ lead to censorship in Britain, banned by UK station network B4U because of threats of violence. Deeyah has not been silenced however. 

Though no longer able to perform, she has turned her talented ear to producing the culturally rich, Listen to the Banned, a collection of modern and traditional songs from artists censored by religion, cultural and political persecution. Artists are sourced from countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Artists like Farhad Darya, banned by Afghan Taliban against music of all kinds, or Ferhat Tunç, imprisoned in Turkey for singing songs about the plight of Kurdish people.

In addition, Deeyah has produced projects for the free expression of music, while founding MEMINI to highlight the many women to have dissappeared through violent honour killings. From personal struggles, Deeyah has banded together the banned- ready  to be heard. ♦

A beautiful intro to Listen to the Banned can be heard here or ordered through and Amnesty International Shop.


sound map of the danube: annea lockwood

Ilario ColliTo talk about the significance of river systems to human life is to descend into a dizzying whirlpool of clichés and hackneyed truisms. Historically, they have fuelled creative expression of all kinds, giving rise to a pantheon of river gods, inspired poets and painters, enriching language with countless metaphor.

Considering the sheer figurative weight that flows through them already, rivers challenge the offering of fresh art perspectives.

Yet New-Zealand-born, New York- based composer Annea Lockwood has knelt down over the banks of some of the world’s most important river systems, reached into their waters and drawn out musical ideas of impressive singularity. Her 2005 sound installation A Sound Map of the Danube is a tribute to a river’s beguiling aural beauty. Assembled as a collage of field recordings, Lockwood’s work plays like an epic sound novel. Its narrative follows the journey of this mighty Eastern European river, from its source in the Black Forest to its delta at the shores of the Black Sea.

Danube River [Photo by bogdix]

Lockwood collected her sound recordings of the Danube in five separate trips to Europe from 2001 to 2004. Working as a sort of ‘ethnographer of sound’, she travelled slowly down the river’s sinuous body, stopping wherever an interesting sound effect seemed probable. The result is a 167-minute edit of aural tableaux from 59 separate points along the river’s banks.

The work’s scope encompasses sounds both natural and manmade, from chirping water birds and murmuring insects, to tolling church bells and rumbling engines. Then there are the sounds of the water itself; confounding in their endless variety and multi-layered complexity. Delicate trickles give way to crude guzzles. Quietly mumbling wavelets falling upon river banks morph into full-bodied resonances captured within a drain’s cavernous walls.

The remarkable array of water sounds in A Sound Map of the Danube portrays Lockwood’s chronicle of the Danube, showing the intricate polyrhythms inherent in a River’s natural flow, both rhythmic and constant. Yet, unlike the work of great modernists such as Stravinsky and Messiaen, the River’s isorhythms are the doing of Nature Herself, artfully penned by Her infallible hand.

River Danube [Photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis]Though to some dismissably ambient music, Lockwood’s sound map makes for probing meditation on the essence of rivers. Why do they exist? How are we dependent on them, and they on us? WHAT are they? Lockwood’s Sound Map of the Danube poses all these questions, and the answer she offers is refracted in the complete logic of the River’s internal movements, the lapping of its waves and the never-ending flux of its waters ♦

Editors note: This is Ilario Colli’s first post to as the site’s music contributor, and he will be continuing to share welcome signs from modern culture in the field of musical arts. [photos sourced and attributed from Flickr Commons]