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Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Honing Dilemma: Playing in Israel - or Not?

My newspaper reported that jazz saxophone player Yuri Honing plans to perform at the Red Sea Jazz Festival  at Eilat, Israel; but that he is put under pressure to refrain from playing there by pro-Palestinian organisations.

I am not going to take sides in this. I have my personal opinion, but it doesn't matter much. I hope you have a personal opinion too - never mind which opinion it is. And I hope it is rooted in ideas about justice, ideas about the general human condition, ideas about what musicians - as humans - should or should not do. Maybe you can sharpen your thoughts on comparable situations: Paul Simon breaking the international cultural boycott of South-Africa by recording with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, for example.

Of course Honing has rooted his opinion in ideas about justice et cetera, too. But the newspaper quoted him ventilating another idea. "My music is an apolitical means of connecting people", Honing says.

I disagree.

Music - in general, or Honing's in particular - is not apolitical. But let's be precise: it is not political either. Music is beyond politics, or before politics; or maybe above - or below? As I express from time to time, music itself is neutral. The use of music, however, is never neutral. By using music in a politically laden context (some people would maintain that every context is politically laden) it becomes partly political by definition. Whether you like it or not. Whether you proclaim its apolitical character or not.

Music is not the realm of beauty. Music is human behavior; it is action, and agency. And agency means choosing. Not playing in Eilat is a choice. But playing in Eilat is not: avoiding a choice because music is apolitical - it is just another choice. And mind you: not playing in Eilat may be (but is not necessarily) a choice for the pro-Palestinian argument, but playing in Eilat is not necessarily a choice against the pro-Palestinian argument.

Life is complex.

If you read Dutch, check out the reactions on Jazzenzo. Endlessly interesting.

1 comment:

  1. Nice, eventhough the chances are that this is pretty much what he meant (and could have been more exact).