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6 Controversial Gigs That Broke Cultural Boycotts - BBC Music, 5th January 2018

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ARTICLES:2018



Title: 6 Controversial Gigs That Broke Cultural Boycotts
Publication: BBC Music
Date: Friday 5th January 2018
Writer: Fraser McAlpine


In an ideal world, musicians could play for anyone that wanted them, but to even cross the border into certain countries can look like a political act, which means a lot of soul-searching and deliberation at the planning stage. It's a matter of weighing up the benefits of meeting a whole new community of fans against the flak that can come when entertainment meets international politics.

Against a backdrop of ongoing debate over whether musicians should play in Israel (Radiohead chose to in July 2017, while Lorde has recently declined), here are a few concerts that caused controversy before anyone could play a note.

Manic Street Preachers in Cuba

"Cuba for me is the last great symbol that really fights against the Americanisation of the world," stated Nicky Wire in 2000, as the principal reason why Manic Street Preachers - with the help of Neath MP Peter Hain - agreed to defy a longstanding US cultural and economic embargo and play the first major rock concert in Havana for more than 20 years.

Their performance took place in front of an audience of 5,000 - tickets were the equivalent of 17p each - including Fidel Castro, who rose and gave a standing ovation to the song Baby Elian, a tribute to Elian Gonzalez, the six year old boy at the centre of an international custody battle in 2000. Officially, the Castro regime had been against rock and pop music, calling the music "decadent indulgences". But when he met with the band shortly before showtime, he dismissed their warning that the volume might be hard to take, saying, "Will it be as loud as war?"