Tuba Skinny speaks out on cancellation of show at Red Sea Festival

Today, I received the following statement by Kiowa Wells on behalf of Tuba Skinny. Here is the full text:

The viewpoints of Tuba Skinny in regard to our recent cancellation at the Red Sea Jazz Festival have recently become a popular topic of debate among numerous websites and news forums. We did not want to comment on a situation that we as foreigners know so little about, but it seems that we now have no choice but to comment.

The reasons for our cancellation are numerous. First, when we agreed to play the festival we were not aware that it was largely state sponsored, or that people on the other side of the wall would be denied entry. This should suffice to demonstrate my meaning when I say that we do not have the comprehensive viewpoint necessary to make political commentary on such a
serious matter.

It is a fact that prior to our show, two days before we were scheduled to fly to Israel from Rome, we were approached by various people via E-mail who are affiliated with the BDS and AAA movements. After thoroughly researching what they told us in numerous emails, we were more enlightened on the current situation of the Wall, in addition to the extreme actions taken by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people. This was a shaking realization, especially because as a street band from New Orleans, we had not even heard the call to boycott, and never so much as considered the idea that playing music for people could be seen as a statement aligning us with any extremist group.

Our intentions were to play on the street in Israel and the surrounding areas for the people, not for any government. It is a real regret to not play for Palestinian and Israeli people alike, especially because many of these people have expressed openly that they do not support the Wall, or the killing of innocent people carried out by either side. Our intentions at no time included playing in support of government sponsored atrocities or independent ones.

The day before our flight, after hours of stressful deliberation, we decided that we should not back out of our slated appearance for these reasons: Many people who live in Israel and wish for equal rights and peace had bought tickets to see us, and it was mere days before the show; the organizers, whose political stance has never been known to us, had worked very hard on our behalf; We were in Italy with no way home; and we viewed it as an opportunity to speak out against segregation and senseless killing. We thought to donate the proceeds from the festival to relief and human rights organizations involved in this crisis.

After reaching this painful decision, we immediately learned of the killings outside of Eilat and the subsequent bombings in Gaza, both with the loss of innocent lives. This was the icing on the cake. We could not support any of these actions, let alone risk the obvious personal danger that was implied. It was for a mixture of these reasons that we decided to back out. Not only the Apartheid Wall, not only the attacks at Gaza, not only the attacks outside of Eilat, not only the endless violence for centuries, but all of it combined. Of course we do not support the merciless bulldozing of homes or the indiscriminate murder of Israeli and Palestinian people from both sides!

With this in mind, I in my ignorance would never be so presumptuous as to approach an Israeli or Palestinian *individual *and start spouting off about my political opinion. To a mother who has lost her child. An Israeli mother, a Palestinian mother, it makes no difference. I cannot imagine what that would be like, though there are many alive today who can.

We live in a country whose government is involved directly in this crisis, and many of the citizens here avoid talking about it because even here it often ends in heated debate or violence. Many of the citizens in the USA have never supported the government in this.

We have received pressure from many directions to make a statement. Here it is.”




Thanks to the whole band, for this letter. Thanks to PACBI for the call for the cultural boycott, this kind of pressure is needed, so that Palestine can one day see justice. Thanks to the many many people who work for the cultural boycott of Israel. Thanks to every single Palestinian who lives under occupation, for your steadfastness, and your determination to survive. You will one day be free.


Tuba Skinny can 'jazz it up' any way they like, it won't change the fact that playing for an illegal, immoral, apartheid state is wrong in every sense of the word. Furthermore - it is an insult to the people of Gaza/ West Bank to smugly imply both sides are suffering equally. Anyone who can see, hear, look, listen, read, write and add up knows different..How can it be 'equal' when only Palestinians are barred from attending the event? Where is the justice, fairness, HARMONY in that? And if we're talking about 'terrorism' - what the ! do Tuba Skinny think the brutal IDF are? Choir boys? Does putting on a uniform make it 'civilised' or ok to imprison, torment and humiliate people everyday of their lives? There was a time when musicians of every colour didn't need protests, petitions, or BDS movements to persuade them to act like decent human beings. Music is a gift from God for ALL to share. If a musician doesnt know that, he's no more than an 'entertainer'-with every hollow note he plays.


Who ever smugly said that anything was equal? Did you read the comment? You just went on a rant about our motivations, which you clearly do not understand. I never claimed that atrocities are equal on both sides. That was your own device. And are you trying to say that anyone, ANYONE who has just buried a child does not suffer? It's that kind of totalitarian attitude that perpetuates violence. And where do you get off with the "Choir Boys" comment? Once again, did you read the comment? What do you think I mean by "state sponsored terrorist"? I don't mind if you need to critisize us, it's your right. But try not to put words in our mouths and invent a set of ethics that isn't ours next time.-Kiowa Wells


First; what you insultingly refer to as a 'rant'- some might consider a justified, passionate response to a cause I and thousands like me care deeply about. Second; how dare you accuse me of 'trying to say' the death of a child does not cause suffering. I dont’ ‘try’ to say anything. If I have something worth saying, I say it. Period. In no way did I say THAT! YOU are trying to put words into MY mouth. - 'totalitarian attitude'-what a bizarre thing to say. It's Israel who is totalitarian! Not me. Haven't you noticed- yet? "Who ever smugly said that anything was equal"? You did. (I said 'implied')-" we do not support the merciless bulldozing of homes or the indiscriminate murder of Israeli and Palestinian people from both sides”! BOTH SIDES? Think back; Operation Cast Lead; DEAD. over 1.400 Palestinians -13 israelis; Both sides?- israeli swimming pools - bulldozed Bedouin wells; Refugee Camps- illegal settlements; Rooms to rent-no Arabs; Cultural events in Tel Aviv - but don't 'Tel Aviv' the Palestinians 'cos they aint coming! I could fill a book, but I'll stop there. One thing we can agree on; "our motivations, which you clearly do not understand"- Dead right I don't."After thoroughly researching what they told us" -"we decided that we should not back out of our slated appearance" Really? Try googling Nai Berghouti -'Lament For Jerusalem'. Heart breaking, breathtaking, brave young Flautist; brave, because she recently stood up to IDF thugs whilst you were debating 'to play or not to play'; she doesnt have the luxury of such a choice. Why? She's Palestinian. Sorry you dont like my style. I'm not so keen on yours. I'll save my soft words and dulcet tones for the 1.6 millon men, women and children-slowly but surely being starved to death, physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, CULTURALLY, in the Gaza Ghetto tonight; lulled to sleep by the sweet sounds of israeli drones. Actually, Gaza doesn't need your music. It's heart is full of the stuff.


Hey Kiowa,
I want to thank you for the thoughtful statement, Palestinian liberation is a mine field to comment on.
From the statement I see that there are still many misconceptions about the realities of the occupied territories. Since you took the effort to study the issues a bit, I want to recommend a couple of films that really help clear up the mess about these issues:

Please google "Occupation 101" and "Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land." The former gives a bit of history, and the later gives a good overview of the media spin surrounding it all.

And since you say you hadn't heard of the call, please please please let people know.



Coming from New Orleans I am so proud that Tuba Skinny decided to not play in Israel or to support the Israeli government's crimes against the Palestinian population--both inside and outside of Israel proper. They are correct that this is a very complex issue, and certainly the violence and impact is very asymmetrical with Palestinians receiving the brunt of the abuse and daily horror. I can only hope that one day there will be two states for two people and that Tuba Skinny and their music will be able to grace both states and peoples' festivals!


There is an implication, of equality of suffering, in what Kiowas Wells has said, and it's true, that for the individual Israeli mothers, and Palestinian mothers, their individual children cannot be brought back from their graves, or their years of suffering, replaced with the peace that should have been.

However, if we can identify who does most of the killing, we can know who has most reason to retalliate. and who does most to provoke another round of violence. And we can therefore know, who are accpomplices, in that provocation.
No matter how ignorant we are, ( and everybody has to be ignorant of something), we can quickly understand, that Palestine was never wiped off the map, by Palestinians. Palestine was neevr invaded by Palestinians, though it had to have been invaded by someone, for it to have been wiped off the map. And therefore, Israel cannot exist, without the practice of ethnic "cleansing", which means racist motivated murder, which, by legal dictionary definition, means genocide.
For the continuation, of an undemocratic, artificially created majority, which Israel need to conitnue, in existence, denial of the right to return of refugees, plus the encouragement of Palestinians to leave their homes, with the occaisional massacre, and insufferable living conditions, is necessary. Therefore, to do anything, to make the lives, of state practitioners, of racist motivated murder, (natzis), and thievery, is to be an accomplice, in the continuation of those crimes.

Thank you, Tuba Skinny, for withdrawing from the position, where you would have been a tool, of those thugs.


Cheers for the cancellation. Americans and others have been kept in the dark by most media (who are controlled or beholden to, or are plants of Israel) about the Israeli gov't's treatment of the Palestinians as subhuman, its subterfuges to cover up the perceived "biblical imperative", and its mockery of human rights and democracy through the "Jewish State." However,the truth will out, and it will set us all free.

PS: Remember the USS Liberty! I have studied the history and dynamics of Palestine since the '67 war while attending an "Ivy League" school. (That degree and $5 will get me a latte at Starbuck's). Read your Finklestein, etc. The Emperor has No Clothes.

Adri Nieuwhof

Adri Nieuwhof's picture

Adri Nieuwhof is a human rights advocate based in the Netherlands and former anti-apartheid activist at the Holland Committee on Southern Africa. Twitter: @steketeh