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'ContraBanned:' A SXSW Showcase Of Artists From Banned Countries

(Photo courtesy of Jim Dayao)
Somali-Canadian sisters Siham and Iman Hashi are performing as Faarrow at the ContraBanned showcase.

This year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival came under a lot of scrutiny because of some language in the contract it gives to musicians. Specifically, the contract said that SXSW would notify immigration authorities if artists have acted in ways that adversely affect the viability of their musical showcase.

The terms also said: “Accepting and performing unofficial events may result in immediate deportation, revoked passport and denied entry by U.S. Customs Border Patrol.”

There was a lot of public backlash, and some musicians signed an open letter to SXSW asking them to rescind these portions of the contract. The festival released a statement saying it would amend the contract for 2018.

Though this language had been part of the SXSW contract for several years, it stands out this year since the festival began less than two months after President Donald Trump’s first executive order on immigration.

SXSW has really shown the intersection between music and politics. And in response to the executive orders on immigration, a few organizations partnered together to create a showcase called " ContraBanned," which features bands from banned countries.

Nicole Merritt, is the general manager and producer of globalFEST, an organization that highlights music from all over the world. globalFEST is also one of the of the groups behind the "Contrabanned" showcase.

Merritt said that artist mobility has been an issue for a while, inlcuding for things like getting visas for artists  — and the executive order had an immediate impact.

Sarah Ventre was a producer for KJZZ's The Show from 2014 to 2018.