Forbidden songs: Where there is power, there is censorship


Moddi and Katrine Schiott (Photo: Sean Gallagher / Index on Censorship)

Speaking during his Unsongs set at Hoxton Hall benefit in support of Index on Censorship on Wednesday 7 December, Norwegian musician Moddi warned that censorship can’t be thought of just happening somewhere else.

“Wherever there is power, there is censorship,” he told the audience.

Moddi’s path to his latest album began with a phone call from Norwegian singer Birgitte Grimstad, who told him of Eli Geva, a song about an Israeli officer who refused to lead his forces into battle in 1982. The song had not been performed for more than 30 years. That conversation led him to create Unsongs, a collection of 12 songs that had been silenced in 12 countries.

Jodie Ginsberg, Index CEO, introduced Moddi by reminding the audience of the importance of freedom of expression, something that most take for granted. She told of Zunar, who faces over 40 years in jail for drawing cartoons lampooning Malaysia’s prime minister and his wife, and Baharani Nabeel Rajab, who faces up to 15 years in jail for tweets and retweets.

The evening of censored music also included covers of works by Kate Bush, which had been banned during the first Gulf War by the BBC, and Pussy Riot, which Moddi was dropped from a Norwegian playlist after inquiries from the Russian consulate.

Guests were greeted with a complimentary beer courtesy of cult craft brewery Flying Dog on arrival.

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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.

Forbidden Songs: a candlelit performance of censored music with Moddi


Join Index on Censorship for a candlelit evening of songs censored and silenced, played live by award-winning Norwegian musician Moddi.

Set in the beautifully restored Victorian Hoxton Hall, this one-night-only celebration will feature banned songs from around the world, from artists including Pussy Riot and Kate Bush. Following a sell-out European tour, this is an exclusive opportunity to see a brilliant musician in one of London’s historic East End venues. Moddi’s remarkable collection reveals untold stories of censorship, persecution and repression. Guests will be greeted with a complimentary beer courtesy of cult craft brewery Flying Dog – and the party will continue long after the songs have ended.

We’re also raffling fantastic prizes including a luxury London hotel stay, a Whole Foods gift hamper worth £200, a month’s supply of Divine Chocolate, a case of Flying Dog beer, autographed books by legendary comedy writer John O’Farrell and much more.

If you can’t make the gig, but still want to be in with a chance of winning, donate now to Index on Censorship. Anyone who donates £10 or more between now and December 7 will be entered in to the raffle. (Entrants must be UK-based and be able to collect their prizes in person from our London office by 16 December.)

The event is in support of leading freedom of expression charity Index on Censorship, amplifying the voices of musicians, artists and others around the world who are currently facing censorship and repression.

Moddi (Photo: Jørgen Nordby)

Moddi (Photo: Jørgen Nordby)

On Moddi:

“Making banned music dangerous once again.” The Independent

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

“Witty and spry” Financial Times

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

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

Moddi will be performing songs from his Unsongs album:


Raffle prizes include:

  • Wireless speaker worth £250 from Cambridge Audio
  • Luxury London hotel stay with Edwardian Hotels
  • Whole Foods gift hamper & £50 gift voucher (Total value £200)
  • £120 gift voucher for inamo restaurant
  • One of a kind Flying Dog beer gift basket
  • Case of biodynamic prosecco
  • Case of beer
  • Month’s supply of Divine Chocolate bars
  • Google Chromecast x 3
  • Hamilton playscript
  • Harry Potter & the Cursed Child playscript & Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay
  • Signed copy of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad
  • Autographed books from John O’Farrell
  • £20 Pret a Manger voucher

Winners will be notified by Monday 12 December.


With special thanks to Flying Dog Brewery and Divine Chocolate.

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When: Wednesday 7 December 2016, 7pm
Where: Hoxton Hall (Map)
Tickets: £15 from Hoxton Hall (includes welcome drink)

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Twitter Q&A: Norwegian musician Moddi stands #WithTheBanned

Norwegian musician Moddi’s new album, Unsongs, is made up of renditions 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 on Censorship caught up with Moddi on Twitter to find out more.











To mark the release of Unsongs, Index on Censorship is proud to announce a special series of appearances by currently banned voices from around the world.

Moddi will hand over the stage at three of the biggest gigs on his current European tour to unleash the power of free expression, replacing the support band with the genuinely banned.

In Amsterdam on 1 October, Maryam Al-Khawaja will share her and her family’s story of imprisonment and exile in the struggle for democracy in Bahrain. In London on 3 October, Vanessa Berhe will speak about life in the prison state of Eritrea and her campaign One Day Seyoum fighting to free her journalist uncle Seyoum Tsehaye who has been in jail for 15 years. In Berlin on 6 October, Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently will tell how the Syrian civil war has destroyed the free expression of a generation. Co-founder Abdalaziz Alhamza will share the story of how and why he co-founded it inside IS-controlled territory.