At a time of great turmoil, every thing else can feel insignificant. Spending all your time listening and digesting music feels trivial. Writing about it even more so. But music, like all artforms, is a gateway to another place, to other people, to understanding, reflecting and solidarity. It’s also an outlet for anger and frustration which is ultimately cathartic. Just listen to Run The Jewels 3.
Music is the answer. But for threats like Trump to world affairs and the people in it, it just doesn’t feel like it. When President Trumpy signed an executive order banning visitors to the US from seven predominantly Muslim Nations for 90s days: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya, it caused immediate chaos at airports as people affected were literally in the air on their way here. Organisations like the ACLU and others have been resisting and winning small victories, but the closing of borders in such rash fashion of the “land of the free” is more than worrying, it’s unprecedented. The attempt to change the values of a country in such short time has been met with opposition but the US, a nation of immigrants, is entering uncharted waters by banning people blindly from its territory.
Trump’s ban on those specific seven countries raises questions about whether his own business affairs with countries not on the list like Saudi Arabia mean they’re not on the list. This ban isn’t nuanced, it’s discriminatory. It applies to too many people who can and do actually contribute to the idea of making America great again: people with better education than the average American, scientists of repute, people who have the right to be there. It’s an order than is ignorant of how difficult it is to get a green card, refugee status or a working visa. You can’t just rock up to an embassy and get those papers. It’s bewildering and troubling, the style of a dictator who fashions his own common sense and gets rid of anyone who doesn’t agree with him.
So as I often do, I turned to music. As Kieran Hebden also coincidentally did yesterday by adding 8 songs to his rolling Spotify playlist, I have put together a 32-track Spotify playlist featuring music of artists and immigrants of these banned nations. It’s a small way of showing solidarity, of recognising the common humanity between us all.
The playlist includes first and second generation immigrants and refugees like Sudanese New Yorker Sinkane, Syrian musician and dabke wedding singer Omar Souleyman, Chicago veteran and Iraqi-American Amir ElSaffar, Somalin pop star K’Naan, the Syrian singer Based in Lebanon & Sweden Faia Younan and the Yemen-inspired Bint El Funk.
Among the 32 are tracks from artists of the country who stayed put, folk songs and pop music of all eras from Iranian singer GooGooosh, Iranian classical and pop singer Simin Ghanem, Somali band Dur-Dur-Band, Iran’s Mehrpouya, Nubian musician Hamza El Din and more Syrian Dabke (which is really something else) from Sounds of the Syrian Houran compilation.