IMDA cancels concert by Swedish metal band Watain

IMDA had earlier allowed the Watain Live In Singapore concert with a rating of Restricted 18 (R18).
IMDA had earlier allowed the Watain Live In Singapore concert with a rating of Restricted 18 (R18).PHOTO: FACEBOOK/WATAIN

SINGAPORE - The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has cancelled the Watain Live In Singapore concert on Thursday (March 7), following concerns raised by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

The Swedish black metal band, whose 2013 album The Wild Hunt topped the Swedish music charts, were set to play their debut Singapore concert at EBX Live Space, a concert venue in the Upper Paya Lebar industrial estate on Thursday. IMDA had earlier allowed the concert with a rating of Restricted 18 (R18), the authority said in a statement.

Given Watain's history, IMDA imposed further stringent requirements including the removal of songs which are religiously offensive, that the band cannot make references to religion or use religious symbols, and that no ritualistic acts are performed on stage.

On Thursday, MHA provided its assessment that the performance should not proceed, the statement said.

It expressed serious concerns about the concert, given the band's history of denigrating religions and promoting violence, which has the potential to cause enmity and disrupt Singapore's social harmony.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam told the media at a doorstop interview at the Ministry of Law on Thursday that the public outcry against the show prompted MHA to make a security assessment for the show. "Previously permission had been given, with strict conditions enforced, that there should be no offensive songs, that the audience should be limited to 200 or so and several other conditions.

"Nevertheless, over the last few days, there were a lot of concerns expressed and if you look at the band they do have a history, very offensive towards Christians, Jews, supportive of violence including... the burning of churches. They have even said they encourage any terrorist act committed in the name of the band and various other statements which are quite offensive."

An online petition on Change.org, which has garnered 15,000 signatures, had called for a ban on concerts by Watain and Soilwork, another Swedish metal band. It said the bands "do not represent the culture which we want in our youths". Soilwork is slated to play at EBX Live Space on Oct 29.

Asked if the permits for the concerts by Soilwork or any other bands will be reassessed in the wake of the Watain ban, an IMDA spokesman said “each performance is assessed on a case-by-case basis”.

Mr Shanmugam said no action will be taken against the concert organiser, home-grown music company RavageRecords.

He added: “For music and art events and performances, I think the general approach is... is what they are going to do offensive in Singapore? Is it going contrary to our rules, laws, is it going to be against public security and public order?”

Watain frontman Erik Danielsson slammed the cancellation. “We have been touring around the world for nearly 20 years and believe it or not, never have we encountered such old fashioned retardation,” he said in a statement to Agence France-Presse.

The band  turned up at the venue anyway and ended up chatting with fans, selling their merchandise, taking photos and signing autographs.

 

Fans who had planned to go to the show expressed disappointment at the cancellation.

Mr Shafique Bhaktiar, a 39-year-old designer, said fans like him only listen to Watain for the music and that those protesting against the band's concert are trying to enforce their personal viewpoints and biases on others. 

He said: "Fans of Watain here in Singapore represent a small minority of people, who see the need to explain or defend the music as very tiresome. Heavy metal and its subgenres will always have its controversies, but those outside the fanbase never seem to see anything beyond their assumptions. They don't realise it's all entertainment, it's a form of performance art."