Controversy Over WOMADelaide's Cancellation of Palestinian Band

Published March 8, 2024

WOMADelaide, Australia's renown global music festival, is facing backlash for removing a Palestinian band from its lineup. The band, 47SOUL, expressed their disappointment in a public statement, challenging the reasons given by the festival for their exclusion. The festival begins in Adelaide this Friday and extends to Monday.

47SOUL's Response to WOMADelaide

The Palestinian band 47SOUL was disinvited by the WOMADelaide festival organizers, which they found concerning and disheartening. The festival cited safety concerns for both the artists and the audience as the reason behind the decision. However, the band, known for pioneering Shamstep—a fusion of electronica with traditional Arabic music—argued that this rationale contributes to the harmful narrative of Palestinians being inherently dangerous.

Festival Director's Statement

Ian Scobie, director of WOMADelaide, confirmed the change in the festival's lineup, revealing that efforts to book an Israeli artist were also unsuccessful. He explained that the volatile situation in the Middle East and community unrest at the time raised enough concern about safety to prompt this decision, the first of its kind in the festival's history. Despite the band's request to reconsider, practicality issues barred their re-inclusion in the lineup.

Community Reaction

Australian musician Jen Cloher criticized the logic behind the safety concerns, questioning whose safety was truly at risk and pointed out the ironic situation of potentially alienating Arabic and Indigenous audiences and artists. Other artists in the lineup, like Pakistani singer Arooj Aftab, have openly addressed the conflict in Gaza, calling for peace. Furthermore, Adelaide Writers' Week celebrated success with Middle East sessions, demonstrating the public's keen interest in diverse perspectives, regardless of safety concerns cited by festival organizers.

culture, music, controversy