Welcome proof of music’s continuing, if underemployed, power to confront authorities.
– The Guardian
All credit to the Norwegian singer and activist Pal Moddi Knutsen for unearthing so many songs that have run into trouble with the censors… a folk-pop list that roams from China to Israel.
– The Sunday Times
A celebration of defiance in the face of suppression.
– The Independent
Unsongs is a collection of songs that have, at one stage, been banned, censored or silenced. The attempts to suppress them were as mild as an airplay ban and as brutal as murder.
The idea for the album came when I learned about officer Eli Geva, who refused to lead his forces into Beirut during the Lebanon war in 1982. The song about Eli Geva, sung by the famous Norwegian songstress Birgitte Grimstad, had never been released due to being too provocative at the time.
I was amazed to discover that one short song could convey so much history – and still be unheard. Fired with inspiration, I started looking for similar stories, banned and silenced songs from around the world, in hope that I might find other voices that deserved to be heard.
The result of this process is Unsongs, an album containing translated and reinterpreted music from countries as different as Russia, Mexico, Palestine and Norway.
Many of the writers are still imprisoned or exiled, such Russian punk activists Pussy Riot. Others were simply denied airplay, like the anti-war song Army Dreamers by Kate Bush and A Matter of Habit by Israeli singer Izhar Ashdot. Yet others were killed, like the Chilean folk legend Víctor Jara and the singer Lounès Matoub.