Pussy Riot Sentenced to Two Years in Prison, and Around the World of Banned Musicians
  • FRIDAY, AUGUST 17, 2012

  • Posted by: Amanda Scherker

This just in from the newsroom of the unbelievable and enraging: three members of Pussy Riot have been sentenced to two years in Russian prison for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred." For those of you who haven't heard the rumblings about this casual suffocation of freedom by our Slavic friends to the east, here's the sound byte, Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk rock band who have quickly established themselves as persona non grata in Putin's palace. They took matters into their own hands and performed a "Punk Prayer" at one of Russia's churches in which they appealed to the Virgin Mary to oust Putin from office.

The band was conceived the night Putin announced his plans to "run" for President in 2012. The election is, in the grand tradition of Russian political theatre, a mere formality. Using his patented Vladmirian numerical sytem that cleverly discounts ballots cast, Putin will ensure a victory, and therby extend his de facto dictatorship over a Russia that is about as democratic as it is tropical.

Pussy Riot knowingly made themselves a target for the paranoid goons of Putin's crew. Their matrytdorm is as brave as Russia's legal system is corrupt. And their example has attracted world wide ourage, particularly in countries where you can hum any tune you like and sleep easy.

Music is a reasonable way to check the pulse of a nation, so it's no surprise that Pussy Riot's wild, guerilla style punk rock aethestic was ill-received by the powers that be. They weren't writing no national anthem. Art moves people, so dictators must remove subversive art. It's simple Machiavelli for the electric guitar age.

So in solidarity with Pussy Riot, we give you a few musicians who are noteworthy not just for their talent, but for bravery that sustained them through forced silence, prison camps, and all the physical and psychological abuse of governments who were scared shitless by their fearless melodies.

1. Fela Kuti, "Feat Not for Man"

Fela Kuti was a Nigerian musician who trailbazed the "Afrobeat" genre. Intensely critical of the government, he was a victim of harrowing state sponsored brutality and eventually imprisoned on shady charges. Before his death in 1997, he created a wealth of music. And the art's as brave as the man behind it.



2. Ferhat Tunc, "Mahzuni"

A Turkish musician who was sent to a prison camp as punishment for his outspoken activism and controversial music. He's achieved worldwide acclaim for his soulful tunes and peaceful tidings.



3. Parissa, "Hamcho Farhad"

Her otherworldy voice was silenced after the Islamic Revolution banned all but martial and revolutionary music. For 15 years, her talents were reserved for the music lessons she gave. She once said, "I sang for the stars, the mountains, the rivers and the birds. But I would not sing for the mullahs."



Finish off this soundtrack of rabbblerousers with a performance by Pussy Riot:



It's a weak government that has to smash guitars and put padlocks on pianos. The only comfort we can find in this awful breach on speech, liberty and damn good music is that banning four chord melodies is as self-defeating as trying to get "Call Me Maybe" out of your head. Our thoughts and prayers are with Pussy Riot as they continue to chip away at a wacked-out Russian power structure and induce the world's worst acid reflux in one Vladimir Putin.

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