"To those in government towing the line for a president you know is wrong: ask yourself, 'At what cost?' This isn't who we are and you know it."
Musicians ranging from Josh Groban to Tegan and Sara were among many voices who tweeted their reaction to U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order late last month. Issued on Jan. 27, the order halted all refugee admissions for 120 days, and temporarily banned citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries to travel into the U.S. for 90 days. Those countries include Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Libya and Yemen. The move sparked protests globally.
A week later, the ban was temporarily suspended, and it's currently in front of the U.S. Federal appeals court as Trump's administration filed an emergency request to reinstate it. The ban has been suspended until the full case can be heard this week.
As the situation remains in limbo, we take a look at the work of musicians from those seven now-banned countries — talents that would be missed if the executive order were to be restored.
Sevda Alizadeh, better known by her stage name Sevdaliza, is an Iranian-born artist now based in Amsterdam who came to the Netherlands as a refugee when she was a teenager. Her music is a blend of R&B, dance and electronic. One of her tracks in English, “That Damaged Girl,” features A$AP Ferg.
Later this year, the artist planned to release an album that combines a moody, experimental pop vibe, and was to perform in the U.S. But that changed with the Trump travel ban. Instead, she recorded “Bebin,” a song about “transformational change.” In a Facebook post she writes, “In protest of the inhumane political climate, I could not rest my head in privilege. I wrote 'Bebin' in Farsi, to solidify. I stand strong with love.”
“In the brain of love, there is no place for racism nor bigotry,” she continues.
When you first listen to Faarrow, a duo consisting of sisters Siham and Iman Hashi, their sound and lyrics are refreshing, an eclectic mix of R&B and pop. Their mash-ups of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” and J.Cole’s “Can’t Get Enough” reveal how talented the sisters are.
Fleeing their homes to escape civil war in Somalia, the Hashi family relocated to Toronto as refugees. In 2006, they moved to Atlanta to pursue their passion for music. Four years later, the sisters were the first Somali women to sign a record deal with a major U.S. label.
When the U.S. travel ban was announced, the musical duo voiced feelings of confusion and frustration in their Instagram post. “We’re from Somalia, one of the countries a part of this #muslimban,” they wrote. “In our case we’re also Canadian citizens (that states Somalia as our birthplace in our passport), we’re here on an artist visa and still have no idea how this will affect us…. We are born free and we will not subscribe to this illusion of oppression.”
Last year, the sisters released an EP entitled Lost. Initially the duo were called into the studio to write a song for Rihanna. But they ended up writing six songs for their EP instead. “Chasing High,” one of the songs off of their EP, is about not knowing what the next phase in life is, but still passionately chasing your dreams. Which, ironically, can be applied in this case.
Ashkan Kooshanejad, also known as Ash Koosha, is an Iranian-born, London-based electronic musician. His art is a seamless experience that speaks to your emotions and provides an imaginary landscape to visualize.
Since 2009, Koosha has been a diplomatic refugee. That year, he starred in a film entitled No One Knows About Persian Cats, about young musicians in Tehran and the process they need to go through to get their music out of the country. Because of his support of Western music, it was too risky for Koosha to return to Tehran. In 2009, the director of the film and Koosha’s bandmates were arrested on their return to Iran. Because of this, Koosha decided to seek asylum in the U.K.
Eight years later, Koosha is facing the same circumstances. In a recent interview with Fact Magazine, Koosha said he had plans to move to the U.S. but has since cancelled them due to the recent travel ban. In an open letter on his label's site, Koosha writes, “This executive order will prove ineffective in its supposed goal of defying terrorism. It is the outcome of petty political pandering to the detriment of thousands … Donald Trump came to power claiming that he’ll make America great again. But this seems impossible without the contribution from many many people of whom I am only one.”
Kinan Azmeh is a Syrian clarinet player who currently resides in the U.S. He tours around the world with Yo-Yo Ma and plays shows worldwide with his jazz quartet, as well as other groups.
Back in 2005, the clarinetist wrote a protest piece at JFK International Airport in New York entitled “Airports.” In an interview with PRI, Azmeh says, “Every time I land in JFK I am singled out as a Syrian passport holder. And held for questioning.”
Though Azmeh has been living in the U.S. for 16 years and holds a green card, due to the recent travel ban it’s uncertain as to whether he has a future in the U.S. When the travel ban was announced, he posted his "Airports" protest song on Facebook and wrote, “Never imagined that the story of this piece will continue to be relevant 12 years later to millions of people who have a 'different' passport at any borders control in the world.”
"What does this mean for everybody in the world who is discriminated against, just because they have a different skin colour, a different passport, different religious beliefs?" Azmeh asked in a recent interview with Rolling Stone. “That’s the question everybody is asking.”
Raam Emami is the lead singer of an Iranian rock band from Tehran called Hypernova. The group's sound is energetic and distinctive, ranging from an indie rock feel to old-school gothic.
Emami, who lives in Iran, was scheduled to perform with his band at this year’s South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. He later cancelled his appearence because he didn't feel travelling to the U.S. was a safe decision. In an interview with Billboard he said, “I am terrified to come to the U.S. to be detained and ridiculed at the border. This is not the America that people dream about coming to anymore.”
More to explore: