Index on Censorship to host a night of forbidden songs

Moddi (Photo: Jorgen Otay)

Moddi (Photo: Jorgen Otay)

Free speech campaigners Index on Censorship will host a night of forbidden music on December 7 to raise money for censored artists.

This candlelit evening features songs that have been banned or censored, which will be performed live by award-winning Norwegian musician Moddi to celebrate the launch of his ‘Unsongs’ album — 12 tracks from global artists, including Kate Bush and Pussy Riot. The one-off event will be hosted in the restored Hoxton Hall, one of the East End’s hidden Victorian gems.

Moddi’s collection unfurls stories of censorship, persecution and repression, such as A Matter of Habit, a song inspired by interviews with Israeli soldiers and which was banned from army radio in 2012.

Also included in the set will be Moddi’s version of Punk Prayer, which gained international notoriety after Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot staged a performance of the song at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The group said it was a protest against the Orthodox church’s support for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Three members of the group were sentenced to two years in prison for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.

Earlier this month Moddi pulled Punk Prayer from his set at a festival in Finnmark, Norway’s northernmost county on the border with Russia, after Russia’s Consulate General in expressed concerns about the song being performed.  

‘Forbidden Songs’ is a festive fundraiser in support of freedom of expression charity Index on Censorship, which champions musicians, artists and others around the world who are facing censorship and repression. All proceeds from the night will go to support Index’s Freedom of Expression Awards Fellowship supporting persecuted artists, journalists and campaigners.

Previous award winners include hip-hop artist Smockey, from Burkina Faso, whose studio has been repeatedly targeted for attack because of his involvement with a campaign for democratic reforms that ousted the country’s long-serving and dictatorial president.

Tickets for the event are £15 and include a free drink courtesy of Flying Dog Brewery.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Helen Galliano [email protected]

Notes to Editors
What the critics say about Moddi:

“Making banned music dangerous once again.” The Independent

“An eye-opening lesson in the importance of music” Mojo

“A brave, thought-provoking, musically adventurous project” The Quietus

“Music still has the power to confront authority” The Guardian

“Witty and spry” Financial Times


VENUE Hoxton Hall,130 Hoxton St, London N1 6SH

TICKETS £15 including welcome drink

DATE Wednesday 7 December, doors at 7pm


TWITTER @indexcensorship


Index on Censorship

Index on Censorship campaigns for and defends free expression worldwide. We publish work by censored writers and artists, promote debate, and monitor threats to free speech. We believe that everyone should be free to express themselves without fear of harm or persecution – no matter what their views.
Moddi & Unsongs
Unsongs is a remarkable collection of songs that have, at one stage, been banned, censored or silenced. The attempts to suppress them were as mild as an airplay ban and as brutal as murder. With great sensitivity and imagination, Norwegian singer-songwriter Moddi has given them new life and created a moving and eye-opening album. Unsongs simultaneously celebrates the censored and exposes the censors.

Moddi: Unsongs playlist of the banned, censored and silenced

Norwegian musician Moddi has collated an album of songs from around the world that had been banned, censored or silenced. Unsongs includes cover versions of songs from countries including China, Russia, Mexico and Vietnam, on topics such as drugs, war and religion. Index has put together a playlist of some of these songs to coincide with the release of the 250th issue of Index on Censorship magazine, which includes a feature by Moddi about the inspiration behind the album.

1. Izhar Ashdot – A Matter of Habit

Israeli singer Izhar Ashdot was preparing to sing A Matter of Habit on army radio station Galatz in 2012 when he received a message saying it wasn’t welcome. The station stating “We should avoid celebrating a song that demonises our soldiers.” The song describes the fear and confusion of Israeli soldiers, until “killing is a matter of habit”.

2. Pussy Riot – Punk Prayer

Punk Prayer became internationally known after Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot staged a performance of the song at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The group said it was a protest against the Orthodox church’s support for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Three members of the group were sentenced to two years in prison for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.

3. Kate Bush – Army Dreamers 

Kate Bush’s 1980 hit Army Dreamers tells the story of a mother’s grief after her son is killed in battle, and reflects the brutality and emotional effects of military conflict. During the Gulf War the BBC were wary of playing songs with an anti-war sentiment and told to think carefully before playing them.

4.  Victor Jara – Prayer for a Worker

Chilean folk singer Victor Jara was killed in the 1973 military coup that overthrew socialist president Salvador Allende. His songs followed a theme of peace and social justice. A Prayer for a Worker highlights the failed attempts of the Christian Democratic Party and the Socialist Party to reconcile before the coup.

5. Los Tucanes di Tijuana – My Three Animals 

In their 1990s narco-corrido (drugs ballad) Mis Tres Animals, Mexican group Los Tucanes di Tijuana sing of drug-trafficking but disguise cocaine, marijuana and heroin with the names of animals: a parrot, a goat and a rooster. The song made it on to the radio thanks to this word play, but narco-corridos are often censored as they are blamed for encouraging drug use and trafficking.

6. Richard Burgess – Eli Geva 

Eli Geva was an soldier who refused to lead his forces into Beirut during the 1982 Lebanon war. His act caused a great deal of controversy in Israel, and Geva became an icon for the peace movement. This ode to the Israeli commander was written by Richard Burgess and performed by Norwegian singer Birgitte Grimstad, but Grimstad was warned against singing the song during a tour in Israel. The above video is Moddi’s cover version.

7. Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit 

Strange Fruit, originally recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939, was a protest against the brutality and racism in the United States, particularly the lynching of African Americans. Holiday approached both her record label and producer about recording the song but they turned it down, fearing a negative reaction. Instead a friend, Milt Gabler, helped her to record and distribute the song after her a cappella version of it bought him to tears.

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