Human rights activists are attempting to pressure American hip-hop artist Gil Scott-Heron to cancel his scheduled concert in Israel, slated to take place in Tel Aviv on May 25th. Over the weekend Scott-Heron, who is presenting new material this year for the first time in 16 years, gave a performance in London. His concert was greeted with protesters who demonstrated outside calling on the performer to boycott Israel. A pro-boycott Web site claimed that the musician had in fact agreed to cancel his Israeli trip, but the producers of his concert at the Barbie club in Tel Aviv said the concert will be held as scheduled. (Noya Kochavi)
A few folks on Twitter have taken JSF to task for prematurely celebrating Scott-Heron's cancellation announcement during his April 27 London show, by reprinting this presser from the Gil Scott Heron Boycott Campaign. I say reprinting, because I took the release off of the Aboriginal News Service. Odd that folks think it's ours since both those sources were linked and credited. No matter really. Anyhow I agree we shouldn't relax until confirmation is received the show is truly cancelled, and the presser said the campaign was pursuing confirmation with Scott-Heron's peeps. I'm aware of one other follow-up attempt as well. This wouldn't be the first time an artist has cancelled due to boycott request, and the news is out before Israeli producers give up the ghost.
But I think the GSH boycott campaign did the right thing sending out that release, & it made sense to repost it. Publicizing the announcement will help keep GSH to his word. The quote they included from the Black Panther Party's former culture minister congratulating GSH for his decision amounts to public pressure on GSH not to backslide. And they did include the caveat that confirmation was needed.
The Beeb reviewed the Saturday show. Here's the last few paras:
Aside from a lengthy solo track by pianist Kim Jordan mid-way to promote her new album (of which the least said the better), the only truly curious moment came when pro-Palestine protesters shouted slogans between and during songs, apparently in protest at reports Scott-Heron was set to play in Tel Aviv next month.
Though at first he swatted off the criticism with witticisms, he later became visibly aggravated, later in the set denying any plans to perform in Israel had ever been finalised.
Moreover, Scott-Heron, who refused to perform in apartheid South Africa, suggested he would only play in Israel or the Palestinian territories once peace had been restored in the region.
Also there's a pretty good piece today in The Morning Star by a longtime fan who attended Saturday's show. The whole thing's worth a read, I'm posting the latter part that deals directly with the show:
Supporters of Palestine began tackling the issue from the moment Scott-Heron took to the stage, urging him to reconsider and shouting slogans such as "Gaza is today's Johannesburg."
He tried to dismiss them, but he could not shut them up, and more voices were raised after the first song, Bluesology, had ended.
Between songs and protests, the concert was interspersed with a series of what, under different circumstances, would have been engaging and comical anecdotes, but which, in this tense and charged atmosphere, fell somewhat flat.
The songs, of course, were excellent, and Scott-Heron's voice is sounding as great as ever - perhaps even more so.
Deep and earthy and soulful, enhanced rather than damaged by the passing of the years.
But it was hard to listen to songs like We Almost Lost Detroit and Work For Peace knowing that they were coming from a man who had seemingly abandoned the solid principles of solidarity which gave rise to them.
Then came the bombshell. After leaving the stage while his piano player performed a solo piece, he returned with the news that he would, after all, cancel the Tel Aviv show.
He did want to play there, he said, but not until "everyone is welcome there" - a reference to the fact that most Palestinians are penned in to a tiny corner of their erstwhile country, denied even the most basic freedom of movement.
You could palpably feel the atmosphere lift and the crowd - who, it must be said, had not been overly sympathetic to the protesters - gave him a standing ovation in time for the roof-raising finale of classic tracks Celebrate, Celebrate and The Bottle.
One final note of caution, however. The Tel Aviv concert is still being advertised on Scott-Heron's official website, tickets are still being sold, and there has been no official announcement from his management to confirm the cancellation.
It may be too soon to announce a victory on this front just yet...
Maybe so, & I should have thought twice before tweeting it as a "BDS victory." It's promising progress in a BDS campaign, but we should hold off on the bubbly for now.
UPDATE: This review in the Guardian oddly doesn't mention the protest or any controversy. The comment section is still open.