Black metal band rejects ‘nazi’ label

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Norway has produced a lot of internationally successful black metal bands, but now one of them has caused problems for a popular concert venue in Oslo. An American rapper abruptly cancelled a concert there this week, to protest the music hall’s earlier booking of the band he branded as “nazi.”

The Norwegian black metal band Taake, shown here performing two years after the band’s vocalist painted himself with a swastika. The band claims it has no neo-nazi links and was simply trying to be provocative. PHOTO: Wikipedia

Newspaper Dagsavisen was among Norwegian media reporting on Tuesday how rapper Talib Kweli didn’t show up for his concert at the Rockefeller Concert Hall in Oslo on Monday night. Rockefeller itself initially listed the concert simply as avlyst (cancelled) on its website and informed ticketholders of the cancellation without giving any reason for it.

Later in the day, however, the informal concert venue that’s long been popular with both performers and audiences alike issued a press release. In it, Rockefeller’s management wrote that they were “sorry Talib Kweli had attached attitudes to the music hall” that they “couldn’t recognize or acknowledge at all.” On the contrary, claimed the management: “Rockefeller, throughout its 33-year history, has always distanced itself actively from racism and neo-naziism.”

Swastika stunt
Kweli, however, objected to appearances at Rockefeller by the Bergen-based black metal band Taake. The band landed in trouble after vocalist Ørjan “Høst” Stedjeberg painted himself with a swastika before going on stage at a concert in Germany in 2007. Stedjeberg and other band members claim it was just a stunt to provoke the audience, and they firmly deny they support either naziism or racism.

Taake’s European tour at the time was cancelled, but the band has since toured regularly both in Norway, where it appeared at the internationally acclaimed Øyafestival in 2015, and abroad.

Dagsavisen reported that the controversy around the band intensified again last winter, after an American anti-facist organization published photos of Taake and urged clubs and other concert venues to boycott the band. Several concerts were cancelled last spring and some artists, including Kweli, also boycotted American venues that had booked Taake.

That’s why Kweli, writing on social media, suddenly refused to play at Rockefeller. He claimed the concert hall “values Nazi bands over me” and “would rather invite Nazis than black artists into their venue.” Taake last appeared at Rockefeller in December 2017 and is due to reappear in April, when Taake will take part in the annual black metal festival Inferno, which traditionally plays out in connection with the Easter holidays.

Charges and countercharges
No one was happy this week, with Rockefeller claiming it had been unjustly targeted, Taake firmly denying any neo-nazi sympathies and several of Kweli’s fans blasting him for letting them down on concert day. The leader of the Inferno festival also made a point of claiming that Taake would be appearing in “an inclusive festival” that also campaigns again bullying, harassment and discrimination.

Taake’s vocalist who started all the fuss 11 years ago took the opportunity to lash out at Kweli as well. “This is very sad for Rockefeller, which we’ve had good relations with for 15 years,” Stedjeberg told Dagsavisen. He claimed he had doubts of his own when he saw that Talib Kweli had been booked for a concert at Rockefeller, “but I wouldn’t sink down to his level by making anyone aware of them. I reckon this is the same Talib Kweli who had made a series of antisemitic outbursts.”

Stedjeberg didn’t specify, but Dagsavisen noted that the rapper from Brooklyn has said he doesn’t want to perform in Israel in solidarity with Palestinians who can’t attend his concerts. Dagsavisen also cited a tweet in which the rapper reportedly wrote that Jews are more often white than Arabs. Berglund