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Banned Concerts in Malaysia

Banned Concerts and Shows in Malaysia

Banned Concerts in Malaysia have become sort of a trend after a number of mega superstars have either been banned from performing in Malaysia or simply cancelling their concerts here due to many restrictions from various authorities.

Malaysia had made international news time and time again for banning concert shows due to the strict rules imposed on performers, especially females and rock bands. However, in a very interesting few decades, many different points of views and decisions have banned a number or world class artist from performing in Malaysia.

Just an off-topic article since the upcoming Mariah Carey Live Concert in Kuala Lumpur is set to take place in October 2014, it is actually interesting to know what went down over the last few decades here in Malaysia, which is a multi-cultural and multi-racial country here in Southeast Asia. To start things off, here is the 'almost-complete' list of banned artist and performers according to year;

Battle of the Bands KL Malaysia
The local Battle of the Bands from the 80s
Banned Concerts in Malaysia 

Sept 8, 1986 - The Malaysian Government had banned all public rock concerts indefinitely after a statement by the previous Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. The action followed a number of letters to newspapers after young people threw chairs, bottles and other objects at the Battle of the Bands (BOTB) rock concert in Penang back then. However, this ban was short lived as in a matter of days, it was eased. 

Sept 12, 1986 - The Malaysian government has eased its ban on outdoor rock concerts to outlaw only heavy-metal bands. Culture Minister Abdul Najib Razak described heavy-metal music as antisocial and a form of  'satanic escapism' that he said induces listeners to perform masochistic acts. 

1990's - Famous American band Chicago was not allowed to perform in Malaysia just because some members had long hair. There has not been much news available on this.

Megadeth banned concert in Malaysia
Megadeth banned concert in Malaysia
July 2001 - A Megadeth Concert in KL Malaysia was cancelled because the authorities had a negative perception of the group's image and music.

The government pointed the band's mascot Vic Rattlehead as inappropriate and told the members that they would be arrested if they performed. Megadeth's album 'The World Needs a Hero' was also removed from record store shelves after the country's government branded their imagery unsuitable.

Their label, Sanctuary Records, was also banned from shipping copies of the album into Malaysia.

Feb 2006 - A concert by Norwegian metal band Mayhem was banned in Malaysia. Reason was because the band promotes “unacceptable” values said Deputy Cultural, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Wong Kam Hoong. He also quoted “I assure you that the ministry will do all it can to prevent this group from coming in,” at a Parliament meeting in Malaysia. 

Nov 2007 - Beyonce pulled out of a concert in Malaysia due to government rules banning sexy attire and running and jumping on stage. Several publications reported that the news followed an uptick in protests by several conservative groups.

This included the nearly 10,000-strong National Union of Malaysian Muslim Students, urging the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage to stop the concert from taking place. Eventually, Beyonce proceeded to Jakarta to have her concert there instead. 

July 2008 - Inul Daratista, Indonesian dangdut queen was banned from a concert at Johor Bahru. A replacement show, planned for 27 July at Bukit Jalil’s Stadium Putra never materialized too.

A memorandum cited the fact that Majlis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) had condemned Inul, specifically for her trademark “goyang ngebor” (drill gyration) dance as lewd which led to her cancellations of her shows in Malaysia.

Finally, Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL)’s initial consent to the Bukit Jalil concert was revoked, and Inul performed at the Indonesian ambassador’s residence in KL on 18 Aug 2008 as part of celebrations for the archipelago republic’s 63rd year of independence.

Strangely, Inul had performed in Malaysia twice before: in May 2005 and again in May 2007.

Mohsen Namjoo banned from performing in KL
Mohsen Namjoo banned from performing in KL
February 2011 - Namjoo, a 34-year-old Iranian singer-songwriter, whose music melds classical Iranian music with more modern pop and jazz melodies, was scheduled to perform in Kuala Lumpur February 18, 2011.

But Malaysian Culture Minister Rais Yatim announced that the concert had been cancelled because it did not mesh with the country’s religion and culture. Thousands of Iranians who planned to attend the Namjoo Concert and bought the tickets have been extremely upset and confused. Apparently some of them spent a few thousand ringgit to fly over from Iran.

Erykah Badu's controversial 'Allah' word
Erykah Badu's controversial 'Allah' word issue with Malaysian authorities - Image from AnotherBrickInTheWall.Blogspot  
Feb 2012 - Erykah Badu's concert was cancelled after an alleged “offensive photo” of her sprayed on tattoo of the word “Allah”, was published by The Star newspaper.

A government committee that includes police and Islamic policy officials decided to forbid Badu’s show because the body art was “an insult to Islam and a very serious offense”. 

Ke$ha's concert cancelled in Malaysia
Ke$ha's concert cancelled in Malaysia
Sept 2013 - Lamb of God, a hard core metal band was banned from performing in Malaysia after calling their music satanic. This was a month after the Metallica Concert in Malaysia

Oct 2013 - Singer Kesha had her Malaysian concert cancelled at the last minute after the authorities banned her from performing citing issues with religious and cultural sensitivities.

Although Ke$ha had tried to fit the rules set by the authorities but they still warned her that she will be imprisoned if she disobey the rules.

March 2014 - The last day of the Future Music Festival Asia 2014 (FMFA 2014) was cancelled following reports of drug overdoses and the deaths of 6 teenagers. The FMFA was a 3-day EDM music carnival held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

March 2014 - A free concert called Twin Towers Alive 2014, featuring Christina Aguilera, Rain, Craig David, Lifehouse and Rick Astley, scheduled for 28-29 March 2014 was cancelled in respect of the Malaysia Airlines MH370 incident that shook the world.

Kreator concert that was cancelled in Malaysia
April 2014 - Metal band Kreator Live in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia cancelled. Controversial reports state that  the venue’s license had lapsed (expired venue licence) which was cited by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL).

Kreator who performed once in 2005 in Malaysia was already here and all set for the concert when hours before the show, they were informed by the local promoter that the concert was cancelled “for reasons beyond our control”.

The organisers also claimed that they were forced to cancel the show “due to interference by a religious enforcement department”, despite having all the necessary documents already prepared.

The organisers alleged that they were first given a verbal warning over the phone by a DBKL official at 4pm after a public complaint was made over what was allegedly described as a “Black Metal Show”. 

Bands and Artist who had close calls in Malaysia

Michael Jackson signs autographs for children at the Concord Hotel in Kuala Lumpur
Michael Jackson signs autographs for children at the Concord Hotel in Kuala Lumpur
October 1996 - During the Michael Jackson HIStory World Tour in Malaysia in 1996, he was forced to change his trademark castrato move (the crotch grab) to something more agreeable in the eyes of the religious authorities.

It is reported that crotch-grabbing is considered impure in Islam. Michael Jackson performed a 2 day concert at Stadium Merdeka in KL to sell out shows. The second concert date was an extension show due to overwhelming requests. 

Linkin Park live in Malaysia
Sept 2003 - American rock band Linkin Park was told to refrain from wearing shorts while performing.

Linkin Park upon agreeing, then received the government's permission to perform in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but the hard rock band was not allowed to scream, jump around or wear shorts onstage. 

February 2004 - Mariah Carey was asked to cover up for her concert at Stadium Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur. Carey opted to wear jeans and a tank top for the entire Malaysian concert at Stadium Merdeka on Feb 20th 2004.

Leader of the Pan- Malaysian Islamic Party's youth wing, Ahmad Sabki Yusof, wrote a letter to the government saying she promoted un-Islamic principles. "Everyone knows Mariah Carey presents herself in a sexy, unacceptable and almost vulgar manner," and "We don't want immoral values for our children, whether Muslim or not." he said.

The superstar is set to perform again here for her Mariah Carey Live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 2014

September 2004 - Islamic fundamentalists urged the Malaysian government to bar a concert by the German rock group Scorpions, claiming the band would corrupt Malaysian youths. "Concerts like these are the catalysts for hedonism and vice in society," Salahuddin Haji Ayub, a youth leader of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party then.

Nothing materialized and the Scorpions concert in Malaysia went ahead on Sept 13, 2004 at a 50,000-seat stadium. The Scorpions have preformed many times in Malaysia and their first rock concert was back in 1984.

Pussycat Dolls Concert in Malaysia
Pussycat Dolls that performed in Malaysia
August 2006 - The Pussycat Dolls who performed here in 2006 also caused controversy after their promoters were fined for allowing them to perform “explicit” routines during their concert here in Malaysia. The fine was a mere RM10,000 and was paid by the organizers. 

Aug 2007 - Gwen Stefani was almost banned after she refused to adhere to cover up her dressing. Under Malaysian government rules, a female artist must be covered from her shoulders to her knees. Also prohibited: jumping, shouting or throwing of objects onstage or at the audience.

Talent may also not hug or kiss, and their clothes must not carry obscene or drug-related images or messages. Eventually, Gwen Stefani agreed not to wear revealing costumes for her concert in Malaysia which was part of her Stefani's Sweet Escape World Tour. 

Avril Lavign almost banned in Malaysia
Avril Lavign almost banned in Malaysia
August 2008 - Canadian rock singer Avril Lavigne almost banned. The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, urged the government to order the cancellation of a concert on August 29, 2008 by Canadian rock singer Avril Lavigne.

Her onstage moves were considered too provocative for Malaysia's teenage population. Eventually the concert went on as scheduled.

February 2009 - Rihanna almost cancels Malaysian Concert. The Pan-Malaysian Islamic party (PAS) has called on the authorities not to issue permits for the show, part of the Grammy award winner's "Good Girl Gone Bad" world tour in Malaysia.

The party said her revealing outfits and suggestive dance moves featured in the show were an insult to Asian values and outraged local cultural mores. Kamaruzaman Mohammad, a leader of the youth wing of the PAS, which called for boycott of US goods over Washington's support for Israel's Gaza invasion, said that attending the California-based Rihanna's concert was a form of support for Israel. Rihanna agreed to shun skimpy clothes for her Malaysia concert. 

August 2009 - Muslims were banned from attending a brewery-backed Malaysia concert. Officials say Muslims were not allowed to attend the concert by Black Eyed Peas in Kuala Lumpur because it has been organised by Guinness.

Eventually the Government agreed to allow the Black Eyed Peas perform in Malaysia. 

August 2009 - Authorities have confirmed that the Michael Learns To Rock concert originally scheduled has been cancelled due to ongoing protests from PAS Youth leaders. PAS Youth has insisted that it is disrespectful for the sentimental rock band to hold a concert during the holy month.

The MLTR concert went ahead as planned as this was not the first time the Danish artist have performed in Malaysia.

The Wonder Girls concert in Malaysia
The Wonder Girls from Korea that performed in Malaysia
July 2010 - The Wonder Girls, a Korean K-Pop group were allowed to return to Malaysia for MTV World Stage Live in Malaysia, along with Katy Perry, despite her songs and clothing being too "sexy" for the Malaysian teenagers. 

October 2010 - Adam Lambert scheduled concert in Malaysia was given the green light amid moderate protests from fundamental Muslims over controversies pertaining to his sexuality. Adam also agreed to make a few minor adjustments out of respect for the Malaysian government. 

March 2011 - Lady Gaga hit back at Malaysian leaders who banned her song 'Born This Way' from the country’s airwaves in a YouTube interview many years ago. She is unofficially banned from performing in Malaysia. 

Elton John that performed in Malaysia
Nov 2011 - A big protest was held when superstar Elton John wanted to perform in a concert here because he is a homosexual.

Members of an Islamic party claimed that the gay singer promotes hedonism. Shahril Azman Abdul Halim Al-Hafiz, an official with the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), said the concert at the Genting Highlands resort on Nov 22, 2011 would corrupt young Muslims because of John's homosexuality:

It's not good. In Islam homosexuality is forbidden. What he is doing is hedonism. Hedonism is not good in Islam. Shahril was the chairman of the PAS youth wing of eastern Pahang state of peninsular Malaysia.

If you know of any other concerts or live shows that have been either cancelled or banned in Malaysia, please do let me know in the comment form below as I would like to keep this list complete and up to date. 

Overall, at this moment in Malaysia, popular world artist wanting to perform here are pretty uncertain as at anytime, concerts or shows may be cancelled or postponed for all sorts of reasons. From a Malaysian point of view, I think that sometimes, these concerts in Malaysia are bringing in good tourism dollars for the country.

But again, there are many other factions that may think otherwise and I leave it to the government to weigh in what is right and what is wrong for any future concerts and shows in Malaysia that can easily fall under the list of banned concerts of Malaysia. 


Anonymous said...

Malaysian authorities & extremist parties will always challenge that they conveniently find obscene or inappropriate.

Question is - why are some of the local rock songs and videos from the 70s/80s/90s still allowed when they have a lot of inappropriate content?

Anonymous said...

Many of the arguments from the parties are not valid. What do they mean by too sexy? Have they seen the clothing Malaysians wear too? Men are walking around in shorts and slippers; that's no problem! But foreigners are not allowed too, and it's just NOT RATIONAL. Why are Malaysians so narrow-minded? 'Everything is haram' 'that's haram' IN THAT CASE WHAT IS NOT?! If the government can't trust the people of the country, WHO WILL?! It's OUR choice what to do, and we all have COMMON SENSE. We KNOW what should and shouldn't be done. If one person does something, say, hug someone, it's HER decision! She knows that what she did was wrong, and just because she did it, by no means by every other girl will too!

Anonymous said...

Its okay. The moment we find out that our favourite singers are going to perform in our neighbouring countries, save money to go abroad and see them perform with no restrictions would be much better though..