top of page

Can music be banned?


By 愚木混株 cdd20 on Unsplash

For most, music provides an escape from the ordinary moments of life. Whether it's a dance break, a heartfelt cry, or a much-needed sing-along, music can be a lifeline. It can grant us freedom to express ourselves in ways we might otherwise struggle to do. However, when this freedom is threatened, it impacts not only artists but everyone. Currently, such restrictions are evident in Chechnya, officially known as the Chechen Republic, a part of Russia, where music outside the tempo range of 80 to 116 beats per minute will be officially banned by the government of the region beginning this summer.

By the British Library on Unsplash

Background

Chechnya is a republic of Russia, and since the Second Chechen War, it has operated under Russian federal control. Still, as reported by BBC News, Chechnya wields significant influence with Russia, despite it lacking international recognition as a sovereign state. Ramzan Kadyrov, appointed by Vladimir Putin in spring 2007, holds the position of Head of the Chechen Republic, and since November 2015, he has been a member of the Advisory Commission of the State Council of the Russian Federation. His totalitarian and repressive tactics have made him one of Russia's most influential and feared figures, with the Kremlin relying on him to maintain order in the region. However, the region has faced severe criticism from multiple organizations such as Human Rights Watch for allowing serious human rights violations. The United States has even imposed financial sanctions on Kadyrov, accusing him of orchestrating a systematic campaign of repression.


By Nijwam Swargiary on Unsplash

What happened 

As reported by The Verge in April of this year, it was announced that starting June 1st, all music falling outside the approved tempo range would be prohibited in the Russian republic. The new law effectively criminalizes genres like techno, dubstep, pop, house and some hip hop & drum'n'bass, whose tempos typically exist outside of a 80-116 range allowing it to target music deemed either too fast or too slow. The aim of the ban is to uphold the traditional Chechen "sense of rhythm" favored by the authoritarian leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, as stated by The Guardian.


By Khashayar Kouchpeydeh on Unsplash

The ban is viewed by Chechen officials as a means of preserving Chechen musical values and tradition, as articulated by Musa Dadayev, the culture minister. As stated by Dadayev in The Guardian piece,"Borrowing musical culture from other peoples is inadmissible. We must impart to our people and future generations the cultural heritage of the Chechen people, encompassing the full spectrum of moral and ethical standards of Chechen life."


However, this ban transcends personal preferences; it carries political implications. According to The Guardian, the region's motive behind the ban is to suppress what it perceives as "polluting" Western influences on the conservative, majority-Muslim area. The region currently operates under Russian laws, which already impose restrictions on media featuring swearing, drug references, or LGBTQIA+ themes. This suggests that the ban is being enforced as a means of confronting conservative beliefs in the region and coercing conformity to Chechen values.


By Jurian Kersten on Unsplash

Songs that will be banned

According to reports from NBC News and The Verge, global songs like Nirvana's "Come as You Are" (120 bpm), Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" (160 bpm), and Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" (193 bpm), are among those banned. Even classics such as the Beatles' "Hey Jude" (74 bpm), deemed too slow, fall under this prohibition. Russian media reports indicate that the minister Dadayev set a deadline of June 1st for artists in the region to rewrite any music that does not comply with the rule. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, artists who fail to comply with the restrictions of the ban will be prohibited from performing in public.


What is traditional Chechnya music?

According to The Guardian, “Traditional Chechen music includes khalkaran yish – instrumental songs used to accompany dances, processions and horse races – and heroic epic ballads known as illi yish. They can be accompanied by the dechig-pondar, a three-stringed instrument similar to the Russian balalaika.” Ironically, however, the new tempo restrictions would even limit Russia's own national anthem, which stands at 76 bpm below the new minimum range that starts at 80 bpm, As the independent Russian news website Meduza notes.


By Tallie Robinson on Unsplash

How does this affect the creative industries?

One could argue that the ban is meant to act more as a way to promote national, traditional artists and boost the creative economy of the region. However, when the rhetoric of the republic’s culture minister begins to talk about imparting “the full spectrum of moral and ethical standards of Chechen life” when discussing the ban, it becomes clear that the decision to ban music in the Chechen region is motivated by more than just a desire to uphold the region's distinct musical tastes. In an NPR piece by Rachel Treisman, per The Chechen Ministry of Culture’s website where the ban was announced, Dadayev asserts that this measure aims to encourage individuals to "conform to the Chechen mentality and sense of rhythm.” The idea of Conformity and “Chechen mentality” rhetoric seem to overshadow any discussion aimed at uplifting traditional Chechen artists and their distinctive rhythms. 


And so this matter raises concerns and issues for those in the creative and cultural industries, as well as those beyond. It not only impacts the music industry by potentially harming sales or revenue for certain artists but also infringes upon the fundamental human right to self-expression, for artists and audiences alike. In the face of such regulations and authoritarian legislation, there is unfortunately at the moment, not much action that can be taken to oppose the ban. However, the act of raising awareness of the situation, talking about it, discussing the ramifications to the very culture that is supposedly being safe guarded by this new law, is a way we can disrupt the agenda. As a CCI student, how do you perceive such restrictions? If your favorite music faced a similar threat in your country, what actions would you take? Can the creative and cultural industries devise strategies to overcome such limitations? As always, we value your input, feel free to express your thoughts, and reach out to us via DMs or email—we're eager to hear from you.


6 views0 comments

Comentários


bottom of page