Letters to the Editor


I just finished reading the article "Don't Play it Again, Sam" in the May 18 issue. As president of the board of directors for Festival International, I must respond to what I fear will be false impressions the article may leave with some readers.

The festival's Vice President of Programming Jimmie Duhon made a request of The Mammals' Ruth Ungar that they consider not playing a particular song. Ungar stated she would consider not playing the song, but she would make no promises. That was the end of it. There was never any attempt to force nor coerce the band, and there was never any discussion about not letting the band perform. The request was made after the festival received many phone calls expressing objections to the political nature of the lyrics.

The festival is a community sponsored and supported event. Since our community is fortunately a diverse one, we would prefer it if bands stayed away from anything that speaks negatively about the political, as well as the religious and cultural beliefs held by any part of our community. In the words of Ungar, "If this experience encouraged people to think about free speech, that's good, but I'd rather everyone have a good time." That is our sentiment exactly. We just want everyone to have a good time, to come out and experience different cultures and forget their troubles for a while.

As for revising our artist contracts, I will not propose, nor support, any language that attempts to restrict the political content of lyrics or political comments of the artists. Nor do I believe a majority of the festival's 35-member board would support such attempts either. Any such language would have to be so vague that it would exclude just about every band in the world. The very idea of trying to do it is absurd.

The changes we will make in our artist contracts, and to which Executive Director Dana CaƱedo was referring, will be to state emphatically that the festival will not tolerate vulgar language, sexually explicit lyrics, hate mongering, nor the advocacy of violence. This festival is free and thereby implicitly invites all members of the community, including children, to come out. We have an obligation to those children and their parents. The festival is also held on publicly owned property, which obligates the festival to make certain that the public standards regarding obscenity and vulgarity are upheld.

I am quite certain that no one will ever call the ACLU, no one other than Scott Jordan that is, expressing concern for the Festival's stand on freedom of speech.