Mental Floss

Rocking the House, the Kasbah and the Yurt

Matt Soniak
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The globalization of everything and anything has pushed heavy metal to the four corners of the earth, and a surprising number of countries are home to burgeoning metal scenes (Namibian speed metal! Israeli stoner rock!) In some parts of the world, playing in "“ or even listening to "“ a metal band is seen as an attempt to tear down the foundations of society. Here are a few instances where loud guitars, black t-shirts and libërally äpplied ümlaüts have caused tension between governments and their headbanging citizens.

Morocco

In March 2003, a Casablanca club promoted a triple billing of Moroccan heavy metal bands. Metal fans arrived expecting to see Nekros, Infected Brain and Reborn tear through their sets. Instead, the nine musicians (and five fans) were arrested for "acts capable of undermining the faith of a Muslim" and "possessing objects which infringe morals." Local media accused them of being "Satanists" involved in an international devil-worshipping cult. The judge, who claimed that "normal people go to concerts in a suit and tie," sentenced all 14 men to jail sentences, lasting from one month to a year.

The sentences prompted immediate protests. A benefit concert was organized and 500 people, many wearing black t-shirts with band logos that the judge found detestable, held a demonstration outside the parliament building in Rabat. The case went to appeal and 11 of the 14 men were acquitted. The remaining three had their sentences cut.

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More than 2,000 years ago, China built the Great Wall to repel invaders from the north. But it didn't do much good in 2004, when the Mongols attempted a modern-day invasion, bearing not swords, but a hit album. Hurd was touring in support of "I Was Born in Mongolia," their latest collection of Mongolian-pride songs, and planned a concert in Hohhot, the capital of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The Wall didn't stop Hurd's tour bus, so riot police descended on the college campus where the group was supposed to play, dispersed 2,000+ fans and detained several of them for questioning. The Chinese authorities spent the next few days shutting down Mongolian-language Internet chat forums to keep a tight lid on the whole ordeal.

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The Chinese-Soviet split in the 1960s separated Mongolia, a Soviet satellite nation, from Inner Mongolia, a region of China. Inner Mongolia is home to four million ethnic Mongolians (double the number in Mongolia), but they're outnumbered by the 18 million Han Chinese that have migrated there and are separated by both physical and abstract borders from their countrymen in Mongolia. Ethnic minorities always make the Chinese nervous, and Hurd, whose nationalism makes them something like the Mongolian version of Bruce Springsteen, are seen as downright dangerous. Their concerts are raided, music shops that sell their albums are shut down and their CDs and tapes are confiscated from fans. Many Mongolians fear a clampdown on their cultural expression, but Hurd soldiers on, and even played a concerts in the US and Europe last year.

Malaysia

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While the specifics are still sort of vague, enforcement started soon after the ban and the government ordered state-run radio and television to play less heavy metal music, and began requiring foreign groups to submit videotapes of performances for approval before playing concerts in Malaysia.

Iraq

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Egypt

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Two weeks after the arrests, state prosecutors gave up the case for lack of evidence. But months later, the Cairo Times reported that education ministry officials were still sifting through libraries and video collections in private schools for traces of anything that might promote devil worship.

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