The Spanish government has condemned the Rototom Sunsplash festival for cancelling an appearance by the Jewish-American reggae artist Matisyahu after the musician refused to publicly state his position on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
According to Billboard, the Spanish foreign ministry issued a statement on 18 August, which said: “Imposing a public declaration [from Matisyahu] puts into question the principles of non-discrimination on which all plural and diverse societies are based.”
Matisyahu was scheduled to appear at the reggae music festival near Valencia on 22 August, but the Valencia arm of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement called on organisers to demand a statement from the singer, expressing his support for a Palestinian state. No such statement was demanded from any other artist appearing.
On its site, the festival’s organisers said: “Rototom Sunsplash, after having repeatedly sought dialogue given the unavailability of the artist for comment, in order to clearly declare himself regarding the war and in particular the right of the Palestinian people to have their own state, has decided to cancel the performance of Matisyahu scheduled for 22 August and will soon announce who will substitute him.”
Billboard noted that other artists had offered their support to Matisyahu. The Uruguayan singer Jorge Drexler tweeted that while Rototom was excluding Matisyahu, it had welcomed Capleton, who is known for homophobic lyrics and opinions.
On his Facebook page, Matisyahu said he was put under pressure to endorse “the BDS political agenda” in order to appear, which he was not willing to do.
“I support peace and compassion for all people,” he wrote. “My music speaks for itself, and I do not insert politics into my music. Music has the power to transcend the intellect, ideas, and politics, and it can unite people in the process. The festival kept insisting that I clarify my personal views; which felt like clear pressure to agree with the BDS political agenda. Honestly, it was appalling and offensive, that as the one publicly Jewish-American artist scheduled for the festival, they were trying to coerce me into political statements. Were any of the other artists scheduled to perform asked to make political statements in order to perform? No artist deserves to be put in such a situation simply to perform his or her art.”