Shokazoba, an afrobeat band based in Northampton, Mass., was scheduled to play a college party when the performance was canceled after a controversy broke out over whether the musicians were “too white.”
Hampshire College, located in Amherst, sent Shokazoba an email on Thursday saying a decision has been made to cancel the band’s set at the Friday event. The Huffington Post reports that the email does not cite any reason for the abrupt cancellation. On the other hand, a statement posted on the college’s website noted that controversy over the band having white band members worried students at the private liberal arts school.
"Some members of our student community questioned the selection of [the] band, asking whether it was a predominantly white Afrobeat band and expressing concerns about cultural appropriation and the need to respect marginalized cultures," the statement read.
Jason Moses, Shokazoba’s keyboard player, told MassLive.com that 30 people were able to carry out an online campaign to shut down their show at the annual Halloween event. He said that some of the band members are not white, but it should not matter anyway.
“It’s not important to us. Music and art has the opportunity to transcend all that,” Moses said.
The Hyper Committee, which is responsible for putting on Hampshire Halloween and deciding to cancel the band, wrote on its Facebook page on Oct. 24: "Due to concerned students voicing their opinions about the band Shokazoba, we held community dialogue to hear what individuals had to say. As a result of the dialogue, and discomfort expressed by members of the community in person as well as by email, Facebook, and other means, we have removed Shokazoba from the lineup for Hampshire Halloween."
"It was just absolutely a disgusting experience,” says Moses. “It felt like we were demonized. I didn’t feel they should cancel us.”
Moses also said his group signed a performance contract with the Hype Committee which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, physical ability, or sexual orientation.
“He said he does not feel the band was dealt with in an honest way, and said he was sure some people would have wanted to see them play,” MassLive.com reports. “Moses said the band would still play at the college, if it were organized by a different group interested in incorporating other points of view.”