November 09, 2004

Banned In Belarus: Drum Ecstasy

Drum Ecstasy are one of the stars of the underground music scene in Belarus. A quartet of 3 drummers and 1 bassplayer who play propulsive polyrhythmic anthems bedded in dark, sub-industrial low-end smear; they have been a fixture on the club scene for a number of years and have even been courted by corporations wanting “edgy” music to accompany big product launches. Their website has a good selection of mp3s for you to download, including these two standout tracks, Nails and Empire...

On July 21 this year, they were one of seven local bands who performed at an opposition-sponsored concert in Minsk to commemorate/protest 10 years of despotic rule by Belarus president, Alexander Lukashenko. Lukashenko was originally elected by a legitimate landslide for a four year term back in 1994, but since then he has used dodgy referenda and rigged elections to extend his tenure indefinitely. And anyone who has tried to oppose him has been ruthlessly “silenced” – as the bands at the 21/7 concert quickly discovered.

Although they did not suffer the fate of official opposition figures who have been detained or “disappeared”, all future performances by them were banned and their music was removed from Belarusian radio playlists. In response, the musicians released this open letter in September and are encouraging anyone who is concerned about this reprehensible act of censorship to send an email to For more information (and regular updates) on the situation in Belarus, visit the Charter ’97 site. And for a good journalistic overview, check out this article from Russian independent newspaper, Kommersant.

Posted by Warren at 09:50 PM

June 17, 2004

Taboo Tunes: A History of Banned Bands & Censored Songs

Taboo Tunes is an entertaining little tome about the history of music censorship (primarily in America). Starting from the early 20th century, it charts the various attempts by US governments and media concerns to ban music which supposedly contained drug references, encouragements to sexual licentiousness, calls to “murder”, satanic worship, or plain old radical politics. In the process, the book exposes ludicrous excesses (like the obsession with back-masking, and the attempt to ban Louie Louie because of its obscene lyrics – even though those lyrics were completely indecipherable), knee-jerk responses (banning Louis Armstrong's “What A Wonderful World” in the aftermath of 9/11…?) and the fact that many of the campaigners rely on tired-old mantras that were once applied to music that they regard as uncontroversially acceptable. (The standard invective about the lascivious “jungle rhythms” of the latest form of black music was being used to demonise ragtime back in the 1910's.)

If you want to find out more about it, check out the website. The book itself can be purchased through Amazon or, if you’re a Sydneysider, you can pick up a copy from Berkelouw Books in Paddington

Posted by Warren at 08:54 PM