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26 April, 2005

Are you local?

Severe problems with the administration of US visas in recent years have imposed virtually overwhelming restrictions on non-US musicians wishing to perform there.  Many have ceased even trying to arrange tours there, as all too often one or more members of a band/troupe will have a visa application refused at a late stage, effectively forcing expensive, disappointing cancellation.  It hasn't been specified, but it seems that was the reason the recent full-band Blackfield tour was abbreviated and replaced by concerts by just SW and Aviv as a duo.

It's a disgraceful situation, which I've mentioned before.  David Byrne's interpretation of the causality behind it comes across as a little paranoid, but he may have a point.

There doesn't seem to be a way to link directly to the relevant journal entry, unfortunately. The one you want is is headed 'April 16 NYC', on the 'Current' page at present, though if you're reading this significantly after the posting date, you might need to check his archives.

Actually, solely for the reason that future readers might struggle to find it, I'll reproduce the relevant part here. I hope that's okay, and that Mr. Byrne would agree it's important for the message to be spread. If republishing is a problem, I'll remove it.

The tightening of the borders in recent years, while it may be understandable regarding genuinely suspicious individuals, is in fact applied with almost no rhyme or reason – although in fact it may only appear to be without reason. A friend told me... that a chunk of [a dance troupe based in Germany] were denied entry, which effectively scuttled the performances that were booked months ahead of time. A tango group in Buenos Aires told me a week or two ago that they have toured Europe three times recently but have been consistently denied US visas, so at this point the US doesn't even figure into their performance plans. [A friend] says that some of the new regulations make the applicants pay when they apply, without knowing if they will even get the visa. Needless to say some individual members of many bands and troupes are refused visas, usually at the last minute, which effectively cancels the tour. The promoters in the US have become loath to even book or schedule foreign acts these days, as the odds are just not in their favor. The prospect of spending money on promotion, ads and radio only to have the show cancelled by the INS when the act applies for their visas is discouraging, and financially ruinous to some small promoters – so they eventually just donít end up taking the risk. Likewise, many small US labels who might release recordings by foreign artists will think twice if there will be little likelihood of a local live show to generate press and interest. Often thatís the only way they have or generating press and word of mouth. So, many times, the labels 'edit' what they release based on these legal and economic factors.

It amounts to a kind of cultural censorship. Call me paranoid, but given all the manipulative tricks the Republicans have gotten up to recently, I am prepared to believe that this has less to do with Homeland security and more to do with keeping the American public ignorant and free of foreign influence and inspiration. An ill-informed, isolated, ignorant populace is a populace easily manipulated. Fed a diet of reality shows coupled with faith-based reasoning (an oxymoron if ever there was one) and you have a perfect recipe for a country in which the government that can do more or less whatever it wants. Democracy becomes a farce without access to information. And culture – music, theater, dance, etc. – is information for the heart. Yes, we can still obtain news reports and recordings online, but without live performance there is a hole where there should be face to face 'news' about how others live, how they love and why and what their passions are. If we are not allowed to feel the rest of the world then we can be told anything about it and not know what those people are really like. If the Other is hidden from you, then you donít even know to ask or inquire about what it is youíre not getting – because you donít even know it exists.

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