What is a recording artist without their live performances? What if fans are never able to attend the performances of their favourite musicians, not because they can't get a ticket, or because the artists don't want to travel out to perform for their international fans, but because the musicians are refused entry by the border agency. Stricter visa criteria are harming the British world music scene.
Unlike most other genres of music, the world music industry 'happens' to consist of artists from - yes, you guessed it - all over the world, including so called 'high risk' countries. It is understandable that the border agency feels the need to investigate into certain backgrounds more than others, but when an artist is performing at a major event in the UK, surely that might ring a few bells?
Apart from canceled shows, disappointed fans as well as musicians, booking world music artists becomes unappealing for promotors. Who would want to book an act that might need to be cancelled last minute? Furthermore, the potential visa issues causes the UK to become an unappealing country to perform in, not only for well-known world music artists, but especially for new, arising talent from abroad. These dynamics have disastrous effects on the British world music industry.
The matter obviously concerns many more areas where international communication is key, such as in academics or the wider arts industry. It seems unfair as the UK is free to export their talents. How much harm will this one way system bring?
Around five years ago, tougher rules for obtaining British visas were introduced. This did not occur without any protests: Manifesto launched their Visiting Artists and Academics Campaign and together with other organisations such as English PEN and ArtsAdmin, they were able to present Home Office with over 11,000 signatures. As a result, Permitted Paid Engagement was introduced as a new visa route. This would allow for artists and academics to get involved with short term paid projects in the UK without having to apply for a visa through the points-based system.
We are sorry to announce that the second Sachal Jazz Ensemble performance tomorrow night has also been cancelled due to visa issues.— Kings Place (@KingsPlace) 28 november 2013
However, recent events have shown that artists continue to experience difficulties. Sachal Jazz Ensemble, a well known group from Pakistan who fuse Western jazz with Eastern classical music and instruments, was due to perform twice at Kings Place in London last week. Unfortunately, these shows were canceled as not all of the musicians were able to obtain a visa. Ironically, the artists performed at the Lincoln Center in New York last month, and in London last year. According to their promoter, Jay Visvadeva, the delays in obtaining visas have not been this bad before.
Similar issues were experienced by Ensemble Al-Kindi, who had to cancel their performances at Rich Mix in London and at WOMEX in Cardiff in October. Five members from (war-torn) Syria, were refused entry, on the grounds that there was insufficient proof that they intended to leave the UK after their performances.
Have a listen to Sachal Jazz Ensemble in the video below, it is of their performance with the Wynton Marsalis Quintet in France a couple of months ago: