African Artists are not welcomed as UK concerts cancelled because of visa issues

Desert Blues Bands Tamikrest and Terakraft refused entry to UK

Three weeks ago I attended Africa on the Square festival. This free annual event is organised by the Mayor of London and this year featured musicians from Togo, The Gambia, Zambia, and the UK. There was also a fashion show, a parade and dancers celebrating African culture.

They performed with a backdrop across the stage announcing #LondonIsOpen. Despite the weather being a bit chilly, it was a well attended event, the food stalls were busy and chatting to the other traders, revealed it was a prosperous day.

This week, I’ve received my second email relating to music events both being cancelled due to ‘visa issues’ 

The two concerts featured African bands. 

Tamikrest, who’s members are nomadic Tuaregs from Mali and currently on a European tour and Terakraft, also from Mali, who were due to do a one-off show at Corsica Studios, which has now been rescheduled to another venue next year (maybe).

Both bands are hugely successful globally with their Desert Blues sound and have already played here on numerous occasions.

Tamikrest, currently on a European tour – Photo RS PHOTO

The ‘visa issue’ was highlighted back in the summer when a few artists due to play at WOMAD were refused visas and had to pull out, whilst some bands including Tal National from Niger, had to perform with stripped down sets as not all members could gain entry to the UK.

Financially these artists and promoters involved lost £1000’s in wasted visa fees, flight and hotel bookings. With passports also being retained for long periods of time denying the applicants to be able to travel elsewhere.

The news made the national press and people throughout the music industry condemned the whole fiasco.

 “The Home Office is killing our world music scene – and it’s going to get worse”                                  Kate Hutchinson The Guardian

From a music fans point of view, you ask yourself why? I personally feel embarrassed that my country refuses entry to clearly established artists, who only want to perform in front of their growing fan base and have no intention of overstaying or disappearing. 

Whilst Brexit appears to the outside world we are closing our doors, the Home Office underlines this with its hard-line complicated processes to genuine artists.

The message given out to Africa is not welcome and is deterring UK promoters and venues from booking bands because of the risk.

World Music is gaining popularity year on year, and we do have a lot of amazing musical talent from all over the world entering the UK.

Meanwhile, artists looking from the continent with the most diverse music on the planet are already thinking what’s the point. How long is it before we see  #AfricaontheSquareIsntOpen.

Den Hukins Calabash!  8 November 2018

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