Last week, Swedish metal band Watain was banned from playing their concert in Singapore.
The performance, scheduled for March 7, was cancelled on the day itself following “security concerns” raised by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). This came after a change.org petition, which currently has over 18,000 signees. The petition asked to “ban satanic music groups Watain and Soilwork from performing in Singapore.” The petition claims that “these heavy metal bands do not represent the culture which we want in our youths. Their subliminal messages in their songs include death and suicide.”
Despite already having R18 entry and set-list restrictions, the show was called after an MHA statement said “MHA has expressed serious concerns about the concert, given the band's history of denigrating religions and promoting violence, which has potential to cause enmity and disrupt Singapore's social harmony."
Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said that he couldn’t see how the band could have been permitted to perform, saying: “I saw the lyrics – it’s four-letter words on Jesus Christ, on Christianity, on religion, abusing the cross – everything that is so far out that I can’t see how we could have agreed to it.”
Shanmugam also said “the Christian preachers, when they talk to me, say 'you are very, very strict when it comes to anti-Muslim, anti-Islamic messages,'" in reference to how amongst other works, the Satanic Verses and a Danish book have been banned for having anti-Islamic messages in Singapore. Christian preachers claimed that “what these people are saying is far worse" and "it is a hundred times worse about Christianity - how come you would allow that?”
Lyrics from Watain’s song VON include: “brothers of blood, the invisible images of vast horror is within thoughts, shall hang mutilated, stale animals, with the veins of Jesus Christÿ, for it shall sway back and forth, dripping most unkempt stink, pig blood, drop by drop falling, creating a Satanic blood-face for me.”
On Saturday, March 9, the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) expressed its approval of the decision made.
Asian countries are no strangers to banning artists from performing, however. Bob Dylan, Oasis, Jay Z, Miley Cyrus and Bjork have all been banned on separate occasions from performing in China, mostly for political reasons. Beyonce was banned from performing in Malaysia due to “raunchy” clothing, lyrics and choreography. Similarly, Lady Gaga was banned from performing in Indonesia as her lyrics and dance moves were thought to corrupt the local youth.
In response to having their show cancelled in Singapore, Watain called the move “old-fashioned,” claiming they have never experienced anything similar in over 20 years of touring the world. Erik Danielsson, the vocalist of the band, told Yahoo News that although people may be afraid of their satanic brand, this shouldn’t allow them to “govern other people’s lives and decisions.” He added: “(as) if our supporters in Singapore were incapable of deciding for themselves what makes them strong or gives them encouragement to go on living their lives in freedom.”
More than anything, this move by the government denies Singaporeans their agency in being able to detach the enjoyment of music from their core beliefs. Jaarvis Ali, a fan of Watain told Channel News Asia that "I don't know where people get this idea that the people who listen to heavy metal are aggressive or that we worship Satan. Ask anyone in the scene. We are merely cat lovers coming together to enjoy good music, or at least what we believe is good."
In response, some Singaporeans have made similar petitions, highlighting the irony of the situation. New change.org pages attempting to ban the likes of Maroon 5 and Manchester United have sprung up. The petition "Ban Maroon 5 From Returning To Singapore" claims that “Maroon 5 does not represent the culture which we want in our youths. Their subliminal messages in their songs include lyrics like ‘sugar, yes please.’ This may compel young Singaporeans to consume more sugar in their diet, which increases the risk of diabetes.”
The petition against Manchester United explained that: “obviously with an intent to spread their influence in Asia with Singapore as a platform, this group called The Red Devils from Manchester is not welcomed. We shudder to imagine the kind of negativity they bring with them."
We can only assume the petitions are sarcastic jokes… but who really knows in Singapore.