Banned: Musicians Who Can’t Play That Funky Music Overseas
Sometimes musicians have outspoken political or social views that get them in trouble, other times it’s their behavior–maybe they have a drug or alcohol issue, a bad temper, a loud mouth or a bag of something illegal in their suitcase. Whatever it is, sometimes no matter how good the bass line is, other countries don’t want it playing on their soil. (Sometimes, it’s our very own USA that bans musicians!)
What About Bob, China?
Bob Dylan is so cool that at the ripe age of 68 he was still deemed such a counter-culture threat, China put him on the “no thank you” list for entry. Dylan’s planned tour of east Asia was called off after Chinese officials refused permission for him to play in Beijing and Shanghai. China’s ministry of culture decides what overseas artists are OK to come over, and Dylan’s lyrics and counter-culture associations didn’t make the cut.
In 2011, China decided that if Dylan gave them a pre-approved set list, he would be allowed back in to play.
Kraftwerk Gets the China Block
Kraftwerk got the big no from China as well, but not for their lyrics or their music or anything they had done recently. In fact, they got banned for something they did over a decade ago!
Despite the fact that Kraftwerk never actually played, due to a lightning storm, the Chinese ministry of culture denied the German group a visa because they were scheduled to perform at a pro-Tibetan independence concert in 1999. The ministry of culture is highly sensitive on the politically charged subject of Tibet, and so any mention of or involvement with the situation could be a possible end for musicians who want to travel to China.
Snoop Dogg in the Dog House
Snoop Dogg rapper was banned from the UK and Australia following a 2006 airport tussle. Members of Snoop’s group got into it with border guards, and Snoop ended up arrested. The BBC reported, “On a previous visit to the UK, the rapper and members of his entourage spent a night in jail after being accused of starting a fight at Heathrow Airport.” He had a tour with Diddy planned for the UK in 2007, but after being denied a travel visa, it was a no-go.
Snoop was also banned from Australia following his failure to pass a “character test.” Snoop eventually spent $100,000 fighting the UK to allow him to return and won his court case.
The Rolling Stones Banned from Japan
Decades (and decades) ago, the Rolling Stones were treated to Japan’s stern disapproval of their lifestyle. In the 1970s, a warrant had been issued for Keith Richard’s arrest in France. In addition, Jagger had been convicted on drug charges in 1967 and 1970. These two events played a role in Japan deciding not to allow the band to play there.
Rolling Stones (made up of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts, although that has varied over the years) were barred from Japan in 1973. What’s more, this ban lasted until 1990. The Rolling Stones played in February 1990 after once again being allowed into the country.
The Bloodhound Gang Angers Putin
The satirical band The Bloodhound Gange was performing in Odessa, Russia in 2013 one night when bassist Jared Hasselhoff crumpled up a Russian flag, stuffed it in his pants, and pulled it out the back of his pants. He then yelled to the crowd, “Don’t tell Putin.” And then, someone told Putin. In fact, the incident was recorded and went viral in Russia.
The Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky tweeted about the incident saying, “Bloodhound Gang packing suitcases. These idiots won’t perform in Kubana.” Bloodhound Gang left the airport while being hounded by protesters. One member of the band was covered with an American flag.
Lily Allen Banned in the U.S.A.
Lily Allen was accused of assaulting a photographer and arrested in London. On her way to the US, she reported that she was “shocked” after being searched and questioned by Los Angeles custom officers for five hours.
After flying into LA from Australia for the MTV music awards, Lily endured the five-hour interrogation and was duly stripped of her work visa. She was then not allowed to perform at the MTV music awards or after-parties. In 2009 Allen was again granted a USA work visa so that she could tour and perform her new album throughout the Americas.
Elton John Says No to Egypt, and They Agree
In 2010, famous singer and talented performer Elton John was banned from giving a private, musical performance in Egypt. Mounir al-Wasimi, the head of Egypt’s Musician Union, put forth that Egypt would not welcome “a homosexual who wants to ban religions, claimed that the prophet Issa (Jesus) was gay and calls for Middle Eastern countries to allow gays to have sexual freedom” to perform there.
Previously the magazine American Parade had interviewed Elton John, who had said, “I don’t know what makes people so cruel. Try being a gay woman in the Middle East – you’re as good as dead.”
Boy George’s Legal Woes Cause U.S. to Say No
The lead singer of The Culture Club had already been in trouble for falsely reporting a robbery in New York, for which he was sentenced to hours of manual labor cleaning the streets. But it was his court case, pending in the UK, that caused the to U.S. revoke Boy George’s work visa.
His management released this statement in 2008, “George’s lawyers in London have absolutely forbidden us to speak about the facts of that case and all I can say is that George is astounded at the decision and is having lawyers here in the States look at it in the hope that someone will change their mind.” Boy George performed in the U.S. again in 2014.
Erykah Badu Upsets Malaysia
Erykah Badu upset Malaysia because of a photograph, showing the Grammy-winning singer with the Arabic word for Allah painted on her skin. The photo was a promo-shot for her 2010 LP New Amerykah Part 2: Return of The Ankh.
The photo shows Badu with symbols from several of the great “world religions” painted on her body, including Hebrew characters and other mystical symbols. The Bikya Masr news stated that it is offensive because “Tattoos in Islam are forbidden and the use of the Arabic word for God, “Allah,” is looked upon by many conservative Muslims as blasphemy.”
Madonna’s Kabbalah Not OK with Egypt
Madonna has been well-known for her devotion to Kabbalah, a mystical facet of the Judaic religion. Reportedly it was for this reason that Egyptian Parliament banned the free-spoken singer from entering the country, as members of parliament asked the government not to grant Madonna any visas into Egypt, also forbidding her from performing or shooting any of her videos there, after Madonna visited Israel.
Madonna regrets that she can’t visit the ancient country. Her manager, Guy Oseary, said to The Hollywood Reporter: “We would love to play Lebanon, Egypt and Syria at some point … Obviously, it’s just not possible.”
China Can’t See Oasis
China’s well-known sensitivity to any statements about Tibet came into play for the band Oasis. Due to Oasis’ involvement with the Tibetan freedom movement, the band was deemed “unsuitable” to play during the People’s Republic of China’s 60th anniversary year.
Oasis was reportedly shocked and surprised at the decision, as up until then the country had seemed happy to have Oasis visit on work visas to play their music. Despite that, once the country found that lead singer Noel Gallagher had appeared at a Tibetan Freedom concert in 1997, a quick reversal of fortune was put into place, and the band had to cancel their concert plans.
Lady Gaga Too Sexy for Indonesia
Despite the fact of the sold-out Jakarta’s 52,000-seat Gelora Bung Karno stadium, Lady Gaga was banned from actually coming. The massive show was canceled, and fans were distraught.
Lawmakers and religious leaders as well as concerned citizens protested and spoke out over Gaga’s approaching concert, citing concerns that her sexy dress, dances, and songs would corrupt the youth of Indonesia. Islamic Defenders Front protesters threatened to harangue her at the airport. Local police were concerned about guaranteeing Gaga’s security, so they recommended the permit for the show be denied, and national police complied with that request.
Lamb of God Not Allowed in Malaysia
It seems likely that songs called “South Of Heaven” and “The Anti-Christ” are what Malaysia was worried about when they revoked musical group Lamb of God’s work visa. The band responded in frustration, saying that the authorities had not thoroughly studied the content and meaning of their songs.
The Lamb of God’s performance at a Malaysian concert hall was canceled when the government-run department of Islamic development said that the band’s music could lead Muslims astray. The band mixes excerpts from the Qur’an, Islam’s holy book, with heavy metal music. This banning came a year after Erykah Badu’s.
Now Beyoncé, Malaysia!?
Malaysia’s government certainly keeps an extra-close eye on who comes into their country, based on the list of those banned. Malaysia was concerned about decency law violations in 2009; Beyoncé was told that in order to continue her show in Malaysia, she would have to cover up from head to toe, change her lyrics, and choreography.
The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) has a youth wing which put Beyoncé in the position to cancel her 2007 concert in the mainly Muslim nation of 27 million people. This same party often objects to various acts trying to enter the country with work visas.
Miley Cyrus Gets a No From China
In 2009, singer Miley Cyrus and her then-boyfriend Justin Gaston, along with a group of friends, posted a photo on Cyrus’ website appearing to be mocking Asian people. The Organization of Chinese Americans told TMZ they, “deemed the photograph “offensive” to the Asian community, adding, “The inclusion of an Asian Pacific American individual in the photo does not make it acceptable.”
Cyrus responded with “In NO way was I making fun of any ethnicity! I was simply making a goofy face. When did that become newsworthy? It seems someone is trying to make something out of nothing to me. If that would have been anyone else, it would have been overlooked! I definitely feel like the press is trying to make me out as the new ‘BAD GIRL’!” She later then issued an apology for the photo.
Chris Brown Can’t Sing in Australia
Chris Brown was convicted in 2009 of assault and threatening to kill his girlfriend at the time, singer Rihanna. Brown was sentenced to five years’ probation. Brown’s tour was called One Hell of a Nite Tour and tickets had been due to go on sale for Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane.
Brown issued an appeal to Australia to let him come as an example of promoting awareness of spousal abuse. He tweeted, “I would be more than grateful to come to Australia to raise awareness about domestic violence, I am not the pink elephant in the room anymore.”
Sri Lanka Doesn’t Like Akon
Akon’s video “Sexy Chick” features an extremely wild pool party in front of a statue of the Buddha, which is visible in the background. Apparently, Sri Lanka felt this was a desecration of their religious symbol.
Despite the fact that you can barely see the Buddha statue in the far distance, (Akon said he didn’t even know it was there) hundreds of people stormed the headquarters of a Sri Lankan television network on Monday, protesting Akon. Demonstrators threw stones and four workers injured and several cars were smashed. Akon apologized for any offense and said he was “dishearted” at the violence, which is “never the answer.”
Argentina Is Not a Beileber
Justin Beiber was in trouble with Argentina after his bodyguard assaulted a photographer. He was summoned to testify about the incident and never showed up, after which an arrest warrant was issued in 2014. Therefore, if he entered the country, he could be immediately detained. The arrest warrant was revoked but the charges are still pending.
Also, in Bueno Aires in 2013 Justin Bieber was accused of disrespecting the country’s flag when he kicked it off stage during a concert. Bieber claimed he was unaware that the object was the country’s national flag and eventually apologized. On Twitter, Bieber wrote, “If things were to change I would love to come but at this time I cannot. For everyone else in South America I look forward to seeing you.”
Amy Winehouse Banned in the USA
The First time Amy Winehouse was banned from entering the USA, it was based on drug charges against her. The second time, it was an assault charge.
After playing a set at London’s exclusive End of Summer Ball, Winehouse went ballistic on a fan asking for her autograph and was arrested and charged with assault. Winehouse was set to come to America to sing at the huge music festival, Coachella, alongside acts like The Cure and Leonard Cohen. Unfortunately, she could not obtain her work visa. Winehouse, tragically, later died of a drug overdose.
Jay Z Offensive to China
Jay Z isn’t known for his careful, clean raps, or his shy and conservative demeanor. He is, however, known for being an insanely famous musician and for being the loving husband to Beyonce. China, however, apparently did not agree with what he says in his lyrics and for because they decided not to let Jay Z travel to their country to rap in 2016.
Jay Z had been scheduled to rap at Shanghai’s Hongkou Stadium when the Chinese Culture Ministry changed their mind because his songs contain too many vulgarities. Jay Z responded with a statement, “I look forward to rescheduling my concert date in Shanghai. This world tour has been a life-changing experience and it has only been made better by touching the fans that I am seeing for the first time.”