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Spanish rock veterans denied entry to US

Veteran Spanish rock band Medina Azahara have become the latest act to fall foul of ever-stricter immigration controls in the US, having been forced to cancel an American tour after their keyboardist was denied entry at the border.

According to local daily Diario Córdoba, Manuel Ibáñez erroneously answered ‘yes’ a question on the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) visa waiver form asking if “you have ever committed fraud or misrepresented yourself or others to obtain, or assist others to obtain, a visa or entry into the United States”.

Ibáñez, who says he made the mistake when filling in the form on the flight over, sought to redress the error at the consulate but was deported after a two-hour interrogation.

Ibáñez’s deportation comes after visa issues prevented several performers from gaining entry to the US for South by Southwest in Texas last month.

“Who knows – if there is a change of president, things might change”

‘Andalusian rock’ pioneers Medina Azahara, who have been active since 1979, have been forced to cancel shows in New York, Maryland, Dallas, Anaheim and Chicago as part of a planned US tour, as well as a date in Bogota, Colombia.

“At the moment, we do not know if we can reschedule the shows for another time,” says lead singer Manuel Martínez, as on 28 April we have to be back in Cordova for a concert in Adamuz.”

He does, however, express a wish to return to America soon – and takes a shot at US president Donald Trump, who has been criticised by agents and promoters for his hardline stance on immigration: “Who knows – if there is a change of president there [the US] things might change,” he comments. “We’ll see.”

 


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SXSW update: Ten artists now denied entry to US

The number of South by Southwest (SXSW) performers turned away at the US border has risen to ten, with an Egyptian-Canadian post-hardcore band, a Danish producer and a British jazz combo among those forced to cancel their showcases.

The latest round of cancellations follows the deportation last week of Italian trio Soviet Soviet, who planned to play a promotional showcase under the ESTA visa waiver programme, as “illegal immigrants”.

At the centre of the dispute is whether musicians can enter the US and play free, non-commercial shows under tourist visas or ESTAs. Soviet Soviet thought so, saying they did not require a performance visa (known as a P-2) as their SXSW showcase was for promotional purposes only, and that they would receive no payment for playing; immigration authorities disagreed.

Three members of Massive Scar Era, a post-hardcore act based in Vancouver and Cairo, ran into the same problem, saying they were denied entry even after showing the immigration officer a waiver from the festival they say “proved we don’t need a P-2 visa to perform” at SXSW.

“Why weren’t we let in? Our names? The music? The colour of our skin?”

Massive Scar Era frontwoman Cherine Amr speculates her Egyptian passport may have been a factor in their being turned away. “My passport (Egyptian) could’ve been the issue,” she writes on Facebook.

She adds that the band’s bassist, who is First Nations (Canadian Indian) and should be able to enter the US visa-free under the 1794 Jay Treaty, was told his “official First Nations card, released by the Canadian government, doesn’t prove he is First Nations and he needs to get DNA test […] He told him that he did this already to get the card in the first place!”

“What really kills me at this point,” she continues, “[is] that the band/the genre wasn’t welcomed by the Egyptian society. Every now and then the government would use metal bands to create false propaganda to distract the people from major political events. We were called a Satanic band and we had our picture in the newspapers once! They would even arrest musicians and metalheads and jail them!

“I moved to Canada to be closer to the music industry […] We thought that by me going there, I would be able to grow our band, play shows and live a healthy free artistic life.”

Danish EDM producer Eloq, meanwhile, was, like Soviet Soviet, detained overnight after being deemed to have the wrong documentation, despite being “informed by SXSW I had the right visa”.

Three members of British jazz four-piece United Vibrations – brothers Yussef, Ahmed and Kareem Dayes – were also denied entry “at the 11th hour”, according to label Brownswood Recordings, forcing the cancellation of the band’s set at tonight’s British Underground/Jazz Re:freshed showcase, which is backed with UK public money.

“We are sad to announce we will NOT be performing at SXSW in Texas because our ESTAs have been revoked under [president Donald Trump’s] new executive order,” reads a statement from the band, who said they believe the decision to be based on racial/religious discrimination. “We were looking forward to connecting with our brothers and sisters stateside to share our music. Why weren’t we let in? Our names? The music? The colour of our skin?”

“Our bassist was told his official First Nations card doesn’t prove he is First Nations and he needs to get DNA test”

Dave Webster, the UK Musicians’ Union’s (MU) national organiser for live performance and chair of the Music Industry Visa Task Force, comments: “We have escalated this to the highest level in the UK to try to ascertain what is going on. It is appalling that these artists have been denied the opportunity to showcase at SXSW. The US Embassy in London has provided no explanation. A letter from Nigel Adams MP and Kerry McCarthy MP requesting an urgent meeting with the US officials has been sent.

“Since the formation of the Music Industry Visa Task Force in 2015 some progress on these issues has been made; however, this latest development represents a huge setback.”

MU assistant general secretary Horace Trubridge adds: “The amount of public funding that has gone into getting our UK artists to perform at SXSW this year will have been wasted. It is outrageous that these ESTAs have been revoked and more outrageous that the musicians affected have not been told why.”

“The US Department of State has long recognised that entertainment groups may enter the US to ‘showcase’ on a B visa”

For its part, SXSW has taken the side of the performers, saying a tourist (‘B’) visa should be sufficient for playing unpaid showcases.

In a statement, its lawyer, Jonathan Ginsburg, says: “US immigration law allows foreign nationals to enter the US using a B visa or the visa waiver programme to conduct business, but not to render services. The US Department of State, accordingly, has long recognised that entertainment groups may enter the US to ‘showcase’, but not to perform under contract with US venues or other employers.

“SXSW is working in concert with other US organisations in an effort to ensure that both the State Department and CBP [Customs and Border Protection] continue to treat showcasing as a valid activity in B or visa waiver status. In the meantime, SXSW remains confident that the vast majority of consular officers and CBP officials understand and respect the need for, and the principle of, showcasing at promotional events such as the official SXSW event.”

 


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Stars line up for UTA protest rally

Staff at United Talent Agency (UTA)’s LA headquarters will be joined by a galaxy of stars for its protest rally tomorrow (24 February).

In response to president Donald Trump’s attempts to ban immigrants from certain countries to enter the United States, UTA cancelled its traditional pre-Oscars party in favour of a political rally to “express the creative community’s growing concern with anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States.”

As a result, joining UTA chief Jeremy Zimmer and California Lt Gov. Gavin Newsom at the rally will be the likes of Jodie Foster, Michael J. Fox, Reza Aslan, Keegan-Michael Key, Cynthia Erivo, Wilmer Valderrama, DJ Cassidy, David Garibaldi, Sam and Casey Harris of X Ambassadors, International Rescue Committee President & CEO David Miliband, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) executive Hector Villagra and more.

The agency has also pledged to donate US$250,000 to the International Rescue Committee and the ACLU.

UTA named additional attendees as Sasha Alexander, Jai Courtney, Ted Danson, James Franco, Perez Hilton, Juliette Lewis, Minka Kelly, Bill Nye, Emily Ratajkowski, Retta, Seth Rogen, Mary Steenburgen and Aisha Tyler.

The agency has also pledged to donate US$250,000 to the International Rescue Committee and the ACLU. Elsewhere, Paradigm is supporting a 3 April ACLU fundraising concert in Los Angeles, while WME-IMG has created  a national political action committee (PAC), which is a form of lobbying group in the US that raises money to influence elections or legislation.

The rally will be broadcast live this evening (11pm–1am GMT) from UTA’s Facebook page.

 


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Michael Rapino responds to Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’

The president and CEO of Live Nation, Michael Rapino, has issued a statement to staff in response to US president Donald Trump’s controversial ‘Muslim ban’.

Trump’s recently introduced executive order 13769, which bars the entry of Iraqis, Iranians, Libyans, Somalians, Sudanese, Syrians and Yemenis – all majority-Muslim nations – into the US for 90 days, has been criticised by the opponents of the president as Islamophobic and sparked protests around the world.

The internal memo, seen by Hits, reads: “Over the past few days, I’ve heard from many of you with concerns about the immigration ban and the uncertainty facing the US.

“Live Nation is global and diverse. We operate in 41 countries and have employees on every continent. Whether you are an employee, artist or fan, Live Nation respects all viewpoints and is fundamentally opposed to an immigration policy that divides us along religious lines or borders.

“Live Nation respects all viewpoints and is fundamentally opposed to an immigration policy that divides us along religious lines or borders”

“I want to assure you that HR [human resources] has reached out to those in our organisation who are potentially affected by the ban and we will continue to help our employees in any way possible to navigate through this confusing time.

“I encourage you to come to me directly with your concerns and ideas about how to improve and empower our workplace with diversity and tolerance.”

Direct-to-fan platform Bandcamp – whose CEO, Ethan Diamond, also opposes the executive order – will today donate all profits to the American Civil Liberties Union to help counter the ban.

 


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Bandcamp protests ‘Muslim ban’ with ACLU donation

Bandcamp, a platform for artists to sell tickets, music and merch direct to fans (D2F), has announced it will donate all profits this Friday to the American Civil Liberties Union in protest against US president Donald Trump’s so-called ‘Muslim ban’.

In an open letter, company founder and CEO Ethan Diamond attacks the introduction of executive order 13769, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, which bars the entry of Iraqis, Iranians, Libyans, Somalians, Sudanese, Syrians and Yemenis into the US for 90 days and has been criticised by the president’s opponents as Islamophobic.

“Like 98% of US citizens (including the president), I am the descendant of immigrants – my great-grandparents came to America from Russia and Lithuania as teenagers and worked in sweatshops until they were able to afford to bring the rest of their families over,” he writes.

“Last week’s executive order barring immigrants from seven Middle-Eastern countries from entering the US is not simply immoral, it violates the very spirit and foundation of America”

“[Almost] everyone you speak to in this country has a similar story to tell, because we are, in fact, a nation of immigrants, bound together by a shared belief in justice, equality and the freedom to pursue a better life. In this context, last week’s executive order barring immigrants and refugees from seven Middle-Eastern countries from entering the United States is not simply immoral, it violates the very spirit and foundation of America. […]

“And so all day this Friday, 3 February (starting at 12.01 am Pacific Time), for any purchase you make on Bandcamp we will be donating 100% of our share of the proceeds to the American Civil Liberties Union, who are working tirelessly to combat these discriminatory and unconstitutional actions.”

Bandcamp announced last April it had paid US$150 million to artists on the platform since its founding in 2008.

IQ spoke to promoters and agents in the Americas in November about what Trump’s shock election means for the international live music industry.

 


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