Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Northern Ireland music figures backing Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot members, from left, Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (AP)

Northern Ireland music figures have issued strong words of support for Russian punk band Pussy Riot.

Jail sentences imposed on three members of the band over a protest in a Moscow cathedral have been strongly opposed around the world.

The women - Maria Alyokhina (24), Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (22) and Yekaterina Samutsevich (29) - appeared in court on Friday where they were sentenced to two years in prison for hooliganism, motivated by religious hatred, after briefly performing a song that was seen as against Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Their plight caught the attention and support of global artists such as Madonna, Sir Paul Mc Cartney, Scissor Sister Ana Matronic and Icelandic star Bjork.

The case has also raised concerns in corridors of power around the world, including the White House.

Closer to home, some of Northern Ireland's music industry figures are horrified by the women's treatment.

Belfast singer-songwriter Brian Kennedy urged his fans to stand up for the band.

"I think it's outrageous that Pussy Riot have been treated so harshly," he said. "Whatever happened to freedom of speech?"

Good Vibrations punk legend Terri Hooley said he was disgusted by the jail term.

"I support them," Mr Hooley said. "Their music and lyrics are terrible, but the industry across the world should get behind these girls. A two-year sentence is heavy handed but Putin doesn't care."

Katie Richardson, from Belfast band Katie and the Carnival said freedom of speech is vital.

"What Pussy Riot did doesn't warrant them being put in a prison colony," Katie said.

"Artists react in a creative way and I say fair play to them. They should be freed immediately."

Stuart Bailie, chief executive of Belfast's Oh Yeah Centre, said Pussy Riot embodied the spirit of punk.

He said: "What Pussy Riot have done is to make music dangerous again. Pussy Riot have taken their energy from the US and Brit punk bands. The West is too blasé about revolution, there's nothing alarming or frightening any more.

"It's made music much more exciting again and has brought them global attention. If I was a 14-year-old living in Moscow now, I'd be knitting my balaclava.

"In an ideal world it would make musicians think 'what can we do with our music?', instead of whether or not they'll sign a record deal with Polydor."

Belfast DJ and music producer Mickey Modelle described the two-year sentence as "terrible", adding: "The music industry should stick together and support the band."

Greg Cowan, from Belfast punk band The Outcasts, said it was great to see a band take a political stance and stick their necks out for what they believe in.

"So much of today's music is flippant, with shows like The X Factor and The Voice, so to see a band make a stand for something serious should be applauded," Greg said.

Broadcaster Ralph McClean said free speech should be a cornerstone of any decent society.

"I was shocked at the convictions. Hopefully the global reaction will have an impact," he said.

On Friday, protesters at Belfast City Hall wore Pussy Riot balaclavas and held placards that said: 'Release Pussy Riot Now. Fighting oppression is not hooliganism'.

Yesterday, in Marseille, protesters wearing the band's trademark colourful balaclavas, were detained under France's law banning face-coverings in public.

BACKGROUND

In February, Russian punk band Pussy Riot performed a song at Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral calling for the Virgin Mary to "chase Putin out". The trio said the protest was directed at the Orthodox Church leader's support for Vladimir Putin. On Friday the women were sentenced to two years for 'hooliganism, motivated by religious hatred'.

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