Music News: 'Are we being punked?' ask musicians blocked by travel ban


Members of the Iraqi heavy metal band Acrassicauda, (L to R) guitarist Moe Al Hamawandi, drummer and lyricist Marwan Hussein, and singer Faisal Mustafa, pose for a photo on the roof of Spin Recording Studios April 30, 2015 in New York. (DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

"Are we being punked in here?"

That's what drummer Marwan Hussein of the Iraqi band Acrassicauda says his initial reaction was when he heard President Donald Trump had signed an executive order banning travel from several Muslim-majority countries. The band, who became well-known through the 2007 documentary Heavy Metal in Baghdad, say they've always strove to be apolitical, but now they feel the need to speak out.

"When brothers and neighbors are turning against each other just for religious views, forget about any code for decency or honorable points of view," says Hussein, who came to America as a refugee and is now a U.S. citizen. "I've seen it from experience, and I can tell you the worst type of war is a civil war." (Rolling Stone)

Iranian electronic musician Ash Koosha says he's hopeful that his pending U.K. citizenship will ultimately allow him to perform in America again, but that at this point, agents have stopped booking him for U.S. shows. "They can't risk it. They'll stop booking everyone from Iran," he says. "All I know is that it will cause a lot of problems for everyone, but especially businesses, universities and the cultural sector." (Rolling Stone)

Pitchfork talked to more musicians affected by the ban, including Iranian producer Madhyar, who's had to scrap plans to bring a tour celebrating Iranian hip-hop to America. "All our plans are basically nothing right now," says the Paris-based artist. "I can't go to Iran because they think I'm not a Muslim. I can't go to the U.S. because they think I'm a Muslim."

Oscar-nominated film director Asghar Farhadi is now unable to travel to the U.S. for the Academy Awards (and says he'd boycott the ceremony in protest even if he was granted a waiver), but at this point the Recording Academy says that "no current-year nominees stand to be directly affected by the recent policy change." Nonetheless, Billboard expects that host James Corden will speak out about the ban.

Locally, the Cedar Cultural Center is unaware of whether a planned residency by singer-dancer Cali Dhaanto, who hails from an ethnically Somali section of Ethiopia and currently resides in Sweden, will be affected by the ban. Even before the ban, the Cedar's executive director Adrienne Dorn tells the Star Tribune, it was so difficult to bring artists directly from Somalia that the venue's Somali music series had to draw predominantly on Somalis living outside their home country.

"We at Bandcamp oppose the ban wholeheartedly, and extend our support to those whose lives have been upended," said Ethan Diamond, founder of the streaming music service, in a statement. "It is an unequivocal moral wrong, a cynical attempt to sow division among the American people, and is in direct opposition to the principles of a country where the tenet of religious freedom is written directly into the Constitution." This Friday, Feb. 3, Bandcamp will donate all of its proceeds to the American Civil Liberties Union. (Pitchfork)

GLAAD Awards nominees announced

"Frank Ocean, Tegan and Sara, Blood Orange, Lady Gaga, Sia, and Against Me! are among the 10 nominees for Outstanding Music Artist" at this year's GLAAD Media Awards, reports Pitchfork. The awards, which "recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community and the issues that affect their lives," will be presented in ceremonies on April 1 in Los Angeles and on May 6 in New York.

Beach House, MacDeMarco announce new releases

Beach House have announced that they'll release a new compilation of rarities and B-sides sometime by midyear, exact date TBD. (Pitchfork) Mac DeMarco has also announced a release: This Old Dog, the singer-songwriter's third studio album, comes out May 5. Two tracks, "My Old Man" and "This Old Dog," have already been released. (Rolling Stone)

Leon Bridges sings National Anthem

Leon Bridges delivered what Rolling Stone calls "a soulful and understated rendition of 'The Star-Spangled Banner'" for a new ESPN series about the National Anthem. "I felt that the original version is a little bit too straightforward musically," said Bridges. "I felt it was kind of dope to give a little 6/8, groovy feel to it."

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