On Monday, Swedish authorities denied Omar Souleyman and his band entry to the country. The move was ostensibly prompted by concerns that the musicians would attempt to claim asylum in the country, but many critics have pointed to Souleyman’s long history as a globally touring musician and his current multi-national performance itinerary as indications of both the musician’s good intentions and just how preposterous the country’s behavior had been. It should be noted that this controversial decision corresponds with the rise of a group anti-immigrant Democrats in the polls leading up to country’s general elections next year and a growing anti-immigrant movement in the general region.
In a curious but welcome about face, officials at the Swedish consulate in Turkey have decided that Souleyman and band will, after all, be allowed into the country to perform at the Way Out There festival in Gothenburg this weekend. What prompted the change in attitude? While the inner-machinations of the Swedish government can only be speculated upon, it is known that Souleyman himself traveled to the consulate in Istanbul to make his case.
In a statement posted on the Way Out West page, Souleyman wrote:
“I could not believe the reason for which my visa was denied – that of Sweden being afraid that I will want to stay there and apply for a residence permit when I arrive. I am a musician who travels all over the world and to all western countries to sing for people and to make them dance. I have never ever had any wish or intention to remain in any country that has issued me a visa that enables me to perform for people there. It is clear to anyone who will take a look at my extensive touring history for the last 5 years in the western world – where I have been and how many borders I have crossed. Hundreds and hundreds.
I have a family in Syria and I have no intention of ever abandoning them. The Embassy had the information clearly of all my children, wife, brothers and sisters, parents, who all live in Syria. I support them and give my life for them. I have never had nor will he ever have any intention to defect into Sweden. I love my home as troubled as it is right now, more than anything.
The decision of the Consulate is very wrong but I have accepted that; now I hope that my management will do everything together with promoters in Sweden to correct that.”
Wartime refugee politics are incredibly problematic, but it seems abundantly clear that hampering a non-refugee artist from freely performing is preposterous. We’re just glad to know that this gifted musician will be back where he belongs- Sweden.
…Just kidding! He belongs on stage wherever his fans will go to see him. Check back in with Afropop Worldwide for more news on Omar Souleyman and his new Four Tet produced album, Wenu Wenu, out October 21 on Ribbon Music. You can stream the title track via the Ribbon Music site here.