ContraBanned: #MusicUnites @ SXSW

Music builds new communities.
It tells the unheard stories.
It creates bridges over walls.

Artists from the diaspora of the banned nations.

Emmanuel Jal (Sudan/Canada)
Dena Elsaffar (Iraq/US)
Bassel and the Supernaturals (Syria/US)
Mamak Khadem (Iran/US)
Mohsen Namjoo (Iran/US)
Faarrow (Somalia/Canada)
Khaled M (Libya/US)
 DJ Meddi (Libya/US)
EMCEE: Azhar Muhammad Usman 

(Due to delays in visa processing in London, Ash Koosha will not appear.)

March 17th, 2017• 7:30 • SXSW @ Palm Door, 508 E. 6th Street • Austin, Texas


The ContraBanned: #MusicUnites showcase at SXSW believes that building a more diverse and empathetic world starts with listening to each other’s voices. As agents, managers, presenters, promoters, journalists, artists, and audiences, we all have a part to play in amplifying this exchange. We need to make it our mission to use whatever power we have at our disposal—the power of media, the power of capital, and the power of music—to promote communication, collaboration, and understanding. At this critical cultural moment, the ContraBanned: #MusicUnites showcase gave a platform to artists from the diasporas of the often misunderstood and misrepresented Muslim-majority countries.

On Friday, January 27th, 2017, the White House issued an Executive Order banning entry to the U.S. for ninety days to the citizens of seven majority Muslim countries—Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—and banning entry to Syrian refugees indefinitely. Though the initial Executive Order has been temporarily suspended, it continues to have massive social and political impact.

For those who work to promote cultural diversity and inclusion in America, its impact has been disastrous. Artists are wary of coming to the US, hearing horror stories of airport detentions and cancelled visas. Arts presenters, labels, and agents are reluctant to risk working with foreign artists for fears of shifting immigration policies, which could scuttle a long-planned project.

This ban comes at a time when access to positive presentation of cultural diversity is more important than ever. ContraBanned: #MusicUnites affirms that music is universal, and can be a tool for positive change.  


  • Tamizdat, a non-profit cultural support organization, is the leading advocate regarding foreign artists mobility issues in the U.S.
  • globalFest, a non-profit, is America’s leading showcase event and service organization presenting world music artists to the American music industry.
  • PRI’s “The World”, a broadly syndicated daily radio program produced in collaboration with the BBC’s World Service, that illuminates the world to U.S. listeners.
  • rock paper scissors,a music and technology PR firm dedicated to deep storytelling, compelling music, best-in-field systems, and strong accountability.

Advisory Board:  Bill Bragin, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi • Matthew Covey, Tamizdat • J.J. El-Far, independent arts producer • Boo Froebel, independent producer/curator • Nicole Merritt Chari, globalFEST • Isabel Soffer, Live Sounds • Shanta Thake, Joe’s Pub • Dmitri Vietze & Tristra Yeager, rock paper scissors • Marco Werman, PRI’s “The World”

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