Visa woes keep bands from South by Southwest

 17 Mar 2017 - 19:32

Visa woes keep bands from South by Southwest
Participants in the cosplay contest sit in the audience during the Gaming Opening Party at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Film Interactive Festival 2017 in Austin, Texas, U.S., March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

AFP

New York:  At least four bands have been forced to cancel at South by Southwest after being refused entry into the United States, with some artists blaming President Donald Trump's policies.

South by Southwest, the annual extravaganza of film, music and technology underway in Austin, Texas, has long been a launching point for bands seeking a break in the music industry.

London-based United Vibrations, whose members include brothers Ahmad, Kareem and Yussef Dayes, said their authorizations to enter the United States were revoked.

"We were looking forward to connecting with our brothers and sisters stateside to share our music. Why weren't we let in? Our names? The music? The color of our skin?" the band, which merges styles from Afropop to jazz to hip-hop to punk, wrote on Facebook on Monday.

The group blamed Trump's policies but added: "There are a lot of people in much more difficult situations and suffering at the hands of external and discriminatory forces at play here."

Yussef Kamaal, another act with Yussef Dayes, also was obliged to scrap South by Southwest.

It was unclear to what extent Trump's actions played in the South by Southwest cases.

Nationals of most developed countries are allowed to enter the United States without visas. A 2015 law restricts that right for people who have visited seven Muslim-majority countries.

Trump since taking office has championed a tougher stance on immigration, with a complete ban on citizens from six of those countries taking effect Thursday.

The United States requires foreign performing artists to have visas to tour but traditionally has made exceptions for showcases such as South by Southwest.

An Italian post-punk band, Soviet Soviet, said its three members were handcuffed, jailed overnight with common criminals and deported after being refused entry last week at the Seattle airport.

"They declared us illegal immigrants even if our intention was by no means to look for work in the United States nor never go back to Italy," Soviet Soviet wrote on Facebook.

A Canadian-based Egyptian metal band, Massive Scar Era, said it was turned back at the border after agents said the musicians had the wrong visas.

"What really kills me at this point (is) that the band/the genre wasn't welcomed by the Egyptian society. Every now and then, the government would use the metal bands to create false propagandas to distract the people from major political events," singer Cherine Amr wrote on Facebook.

"Now the US is rejecting us! Any musician here knows that in order to make it in the music business -- especially for the metal scene -- you have to make it in US."