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Friday, August 04, 2017

David Byrne & Brian Eno - Qu'ran (removed from My Life in the Bush of Ghosts)

David Byrne about self-censorship:  “We didn’t want to provoke”





David Byrne about self-censorship:
“We didn’t want to provoke”
In the current debate in the Western world about self-censorship contra freedom of expression, and whether it is acceptable that musicians use samples from religious rituals, such as prayer or recital from the Qur’an, singer David Byrne and producer Brian Eno made up their minds already 25 years ago. When they received complaints from a Muslim organisation about a piece of music they had produced which featured samples of Qur’anic recital on their successful 1981-album ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’, they quietly removed it from the re-releases
By Mik Aidt, Freemuse
When the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten printed 12 cartoons of Prophet Muhammed in October 2005, the editor stated that it was to be regarded as a contribution to a debate in Denmark about self-censorship caused by fear of violent reactions from radical Muslims. The debate took off when a Danish author told that he could not find a cartoonist who would illustrate his book with a cartoon of Muhammed because they feared violent reactions. 
In the debate that followed, it was often mentioned that sometimes we self-censor ourselves not out of fear but because of respect for other people’s feelings. For many years, a similar debate has been going on in the universe of music: Is it acceptable to use samples from religious rituals, or verses from a Holy Book such as the Bible or the Qur’an? What do you do as a musician if you are being told that a song you have produced is considered offensive?
In 1979-1981, the two successful musicians, composers and producers David Byrne and Brian Eno worked on an album where they used sampled speech from various, mainly religious, people, mixed with multilayered percussion tracks, voice excerpts of singers from the Middle East, street noise, and radio DJs.
On one of the tracks they mixed Algerian Muslims chanting recitals from the Qur’an with their electronic music and rhythm patterns. The recording was taken from the album ‘The Human Voice in the World of Islam’ published by the musicologists Jean Jenkins and Poul Rovsing Olsen on Tangent Records in 1976. They entitled their track ‘Qu’ran’.
Without any explanation, ‘Qu’ran’ was removed from later re-releases of ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’, and for many years rumours were circulating about the reasons behind this. Was it because of fear of a fatwa or death threats from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt? Did it have to do with the legality of an unauthorized sample, or copyright-issues? Was it blasphemy or was it not?
At the time, neither David Byrne, Brian Eno nor their record company wanted to comment on what over the years became known among fans as “The Qu’ran Controversy”.
The magazine Opal Information, published by Brian Eno’s record company Opal Records, explained in 1989 that a year or so after the release of the album, the record company “received a serious letter from the World Council of Islam in the UK stating that they considered the recording offensive.” Brian Eno and David Byrne explained that “no disrespect was intended” and immediately agreed to remove the track.
After 25 years, David Byrne now confirmed in an interview that, yes, it did happen because of a request from an Islamic organisation in London. In an interview with Pitchfork Magazine, he explained their reasoning behind this act of self-censorship:
“You do self-censor certain things, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. That’s just the way human social interaction works,” he said. 
We will come back to this interview in the end of this article.
Pioneering work
‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’ is an album which among many musicians is regarded an important pioneering work. The original version of ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’ became a collectors item and it was later on to be found on an Italian bootleg LP, which was re-issued on CD under the title ‘Ghosts’ by Klondyke Records, and on LP in England under the bootleg name “Utopia Records”.
As such, it created a great deal of attention in the media when the 25th anniversary re-release of the album was published in March 2006, including seven extra tracks. Even though the album was expanded, it was still missing the ‘Qu’ran’ track from the original 1981-album, and it still appeared to be a secret why it had been excluded even from this ambitious re-release.
Fans were disappointed. “Perhaps they’re going to re-issue ‘Qu’ran’ as a single with special cartoon cover artwork,” wrote the blogger MZ as a comment to the fact that it was still missing, refering to the Danish row over 12 cartoons of Muhammed.
The album was first published on vinyl and cassette, but when it was re-released on CD in England, ‘Qu’ran’, the first track on the B-side of the vinyl-LP, was left out without any explanation. On the European release of the CD it was replaced by ‘Very, Very Hungry’ as track number 6. According to The EnoWeb Info Centre, there was a version of ‘Qu’ran’ circulating as a bootleg cassette tape long even before the first vinyl LP was released.
In the light of the current debate following the Danish “Cartoon Crisis” and a self-censoring opera house director in Berlin, this was still “early days” where death threats from religious groups were unheard of. It was seven years before Salman Rushdie was to publish ‘The Satanic Verses’ and receive death threats in form of a fatwa from a Muslim cleric.
Initially, the American market was apparently considered less sensitive to Islamic issues, because a version of the earlier CD releases for the American market included ‘Very, Very Hungry’ along with ‘Qu’ran’.
David Byrne explains
In an interview for Pitchfork Magazine about the 2006-reissue, Chris Dahlen asked David Byrne very straight-forward about his silence around the “The Qu’ran Controversy”:
“ ‘Qu’ran’ appeared on early pressings of the original album, but was later replaced by ‘Very Very Hungry’. It sampled Algerian Muslims chanting passages from the Qur’an. It’s clear why it’s not on the CD reissue, but it’s interesting that it’s not even mentioned in the liner notes.”
David Byrne:
“Yeah, I sort of didn’t want to go into it. Partly for the reason that I didn’t want to make people feel like something was being withheld, like they were missing something. It also brings up a lot of issues, and I thought, “I don’t know if I can resolve all this stuff.” 
Way back when the record first came out, in 1981, it might have been ’82, we got a request from an Islamic organization in London, and they said, “We consider this blasphemy that you put grooves to the chanting of the Holy Book.” And we thought, “Okay, in deference to somebody’s religion, we’ll take it off.” You could probably argue for and against monkeying with something like that. But I think we were certainly feeling very cautious about this whole thing. We made a big effort to try and clear all the voices, and make sure everybody was okay with everything. Because we thought, “We’re going to get accused of all kinds of things, and so we want to cover our asses as best we can.” So I think in that sense we reacted maybe with more caution than we had to. But that’s the way it was.”
Chris Dahlen, Pitchfork: 
“I know these things have flared up over the years, but with the recent Danish cartoon incident, it became not just an issue of respecting someone’s religion. It became very combative. People began taking sides. And I think that’s maybe why people look at the omission of ‘Qu’ran’ a little differently now. At the time you could say it’s out of deference to somebody’s request, but in the wake of this recent controversy, people were lining up saying, “No, you have to print that on a billboard in Times Square, just to show them!” ”
David Byrne: 
“There was an op-ed piece in The New York Times by an evolutionary biologist or somebody — which was a curious place for the opinion to come from — and he said that there’s no such thing as a completely free, uncensored medium, that people censor themselves all the time, in deference to hurting other people’s feelings, or offending other groups, or in their own, not to provoke a fight. He named a whole bunch of examples — the American press, the U.S. press, the European press. There’s tons of things you can think of that they don’t print, that they don’t say, that they tiptoe around very carefully. It is a form of censorship, but that’s also the way people are as animals — that you don’t unnecessarily provoke people unless you really are looking for a fight. And you do self-censor certain things, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. That’s just the way human social interaction works. 
And I thought, that seems kind of reasonable. So my opinion was that somebody certainly has the right to do cartoons that make fun of somebody else’s religion. But to reprint them just to provoke a fight and just to provoke it like thumbing your nose at someone else and going, “What are you gonna do about it? What are you gonna do about it?” Which is kind of what it is. Then it’s kind of like, “Well, if you keep doing that, somebody will do something about it.”  ”
(This excerpt from the interview in Pitchfork Magazine is republished with kind permission from the author and the editor)
Quoting the Qur’an in a song
In other words, David Byrne and Brian Eno’s answer to the question whether it is acceptable that musicians use samples from a religious ritual, appears to be that if it is done in a way which is hurting other people’s feelings, then it is not acceptable. 
In 1999, the Lebanese singer Marcel Khalife was accused of blasphemy and for insulting religious values because he had used a quote from a chapter of the Qur’an in one of his songs. Dar-al-Fatwa, Lebanon’s highest Sunni authority, stated that singing verses from the Qur’an was ‘absolutely banned and not accepted.’ However, it was tried in court, and the a Lebanese court found Marcel Khalife innocent of the charges.


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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

An entire opera could be written which includes the 50 reasons muhammad was not a prophet - link to video telling in less than 5 minutes along with the hyperlinked documentation from Islamic sources.

Friday, August 04, 2017 9:21:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OT:
Judicial Watch Warns California to Clean Voter Registration Lists or Face Federal Lawsuit

http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-warns-california-clean-voter-registration-lists-face-federal-lawsuit/

Friday, August 04, 2017 9:22:00 pm  

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