FOLK SCARE IN ROTTERDAM

LA’s Allah-Las Concert Cancelled

Dateline: August 24, 2017 Rotterdam, Netherlands;

Special to FolkWorks

By Ross Altman, PhD

Allah-LasBad vibes in Rotterdam cancelled the cool vibes of LA folk-rock band Allah-Las’ concert. Spanish police still investigating the terrorist attack in Barcelona a week ago that killed 13 people and wounded over 100 others tipped off the Dutch police that a van wearing Spanish license plates was suspected of carrying explosives to the Rotterdam venue of Maassila where the band was scheduled to perform last night. Dutch police detained the driver and discovered a number of gas tanks in his van and after questioning him notified the venue’s manager, who cancelled the concert before it had even begun.

Allah-Las’ four band members met at Hollywood’s Amoeba Music, where three of them worked and decided to form a band in 2008. Amoeba’s the best record store in Los Angeles, where the folk section is second to none—a perfect draw to musicians.

The band consists of Matthew Correia (percussion), Spencer Dunham (bass), Miles Michaud (vocals, guitar), and Pedrum Siadatian (lead guitar).

Allah-Las has dealt with pointed criticism before, since their band name comes from the deliberate evocation of the Muslim word for G-d—which they chose for its holy connotations, not because their music is presented as religious or Islamic in theme. They have received notices from members of Muslim communities that the name is offensive, but their sincere explanation on why they chose the name has until now been met with understanding and never risen to the level of threats.

The current concert cancellation is reminiscent of British-Indian author Salman Rushdie’s fatwa (death sentence) from Valentine’s Day 1989 by Iran’s dying Ayatollah Khomeini in response to Rushdie’s 1988 New York Times bestselling satirical novel The Satanic Verses, whose main character is named for Muslim prophet Mohammad. Rushdie was forced to live in hiding for many years, and while he remained safe during the time he was heavily guarded by British security, a number of international booksellers who bravely continued to carry the book, were murdered as his proxies.

Folk fans often refer to the ‘60s folk revival as the “Folk Scare;” FolkWorks, LA’s folk music magazine of record, had a lead article posted recounting the “Greenwich Village Folk Scare.” It refers to a confrontation in Washington Square Park in December, 1961 between the NYPD and New York folk singers who had recently been banned from singing on Sundays in the park. A seventeen-minute documentary film short that recorded the protest became an international prize-winning film called Sunday, which can be seen on YouTube on FolkWorks website. It’s worth watching just to see the Folklore Center’s elderly owner Izzie Young stand up courageously to “New York’s Finest” unarmed—28 years before Tom Petty wrote I Won’t Back Down. Izzie prevailed and the new ordinance was revoked so The New Lost City Ramblers, The Greenbrier Boys, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Bob Dylan and many others could resume rehearsing in the park.

But in the age of terrorism the term has taken on new and literal meanings it only evoked through metaphor 50 years ago, when late Utah folk singer U. Utah Phillips, the Golden Voice of the Great Southwest, coined the phrase—knowingly evoking the “Red Scare” of the 1950s. We now inhabit a world where terrorist threats and acts are the rule of the day—and invade the quiet holy spaces of music and culture.

On November 13, 2015, just two years ago another southland band—the Eagles of Death Metal from Palm Desert—was in concert at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris that was suddenly halted by the second of two major terrorist attacks in the City of Light—the first on January 7, 2015 at 11:30am local time being the famed Charlie Hebdo murders. Music and literature have become lightning rods for the worst of barbaric impulses to destroy the voices of our better nature. Such impulses must be challenged at every turn.

FolkWorks offers its sympathy and support to Allah-Las and hopes they are able to get back on the road without further delay. As an old round proclaims, “All things shall perish from under the sky~ music alone shall live, music alone shall live, music alone shall live, never to die.”

Nous sommes Allah-Las; Je suis Charlie; We Shall Overcome.

We are happy to report that Salman Rushdie has returned to public life, and many novels later is fortuitously scheduled to appear in Los Angeles next month, Sunday, September 17 at 5:00pm, in conversation with LA Times Pat Morrison at The Theatre at Ace Hotel.

Sunday September 3, 10:15am Ross Altman returns for his 36th annual “Labor Day Sunday” performing labor songs, stories and topical songs at the Church in Ocean Park, 235 Hill St., Santa Monica, CA 90404 310-399-1631.

Ross Altman has a PhD in Modern Literature from SUNY-Binghamton and belongs to Local 47 (AFM); Ross may be reached at greygoosemusic@aol.com