Spotify Is Resisting Trump’s Travel Ban by Empowering Muslim Artists

Iranian DJ Kasra V works with American artists in the studio. Tarona Leonora

The Supreme Court temporarily lifted some of the restrictions on President Trump’s travel ban last week, allowing parts of his prohibition on immigrants from six majority Muslim countries entering the United States to go forward. Resistance to the decision was immediate—and now, thanks to Spotify, it’s musical too.

Today the digital music service unveiled “I’m with the banned,” an initiative to empower artists from the countries affected by the travel ban (Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Iran). Spotify partnered with Universal Music Group on the project, in which performers from the label (including Desiigner, Pusha T and X Ambassadors) traveled to Toronto to collaborate with artists from the travel ban countries on new music.

“In every era, in every country, communities have been banned for their differences, their ideas or their demands for equality,” a Spotify spokesperson told the Observer. “Cultural divisions and injustices inevitably find an expression or tension point in music—and champions in artists.”

The participating “banned” artists include:

  • Kasra V, an Iranian DJ and record producer who specializes in techno and house music.
  • Moh Flow, a Syrian singer/songwriter.
  • Waayaha Cusub, a Somali musical collective which recently organized the first international music festival in the country since the 1990s.
  • Methal, a Yemeni singer/songwriter who learned to play instruments from watching YouTube videos.
  • Sufyyn, a Sudanese record producer whose electronic tracks blend American hip-hop and traditional music.
  • Ahmed Fakroun, a Libyan singer/songwriter whose modern Arabic stylings are influenced by Europop and French rock.

“We wanted to identify artists that had an appetite for Western audience growth, aimed to make music and tour in the U.S. in the future and had a unique story to tell,” the spokesperson said.

Each duo worked with songwriters like Clarence Coffee Jr (who’s collaborated with Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez) and E. Kidd Bogart (who’s worked with Beyoncé and Madonna). Participating producers include The Stereotypes (who work with Bruno Mars) and Doc McKinney (who’s collaborated with The Weeknd).

The songs which resulted from these collaborations are now available to stream on Spotify. In addition, there are several “I’m with the banned” playlists which include music from both the American and Muslim artists.

Spotify has also created an “I’m with the banned” film, which delves into each musician’s personal story as they work with their American collaborators. The full movie won’t be released until the fall, but the trailer and several clips are already on YouTube.

As part of this project, Spotify is also working with the I Am An Immigrant campaign to celebrate immigrant heritage and share stories about immigrants’ positive contributions to the United States.

This isn’t Spotify’s first time commenting on social issues: last month the site unveiled a group of “Pride Playlists” curated by Miley Cyrus, Halsey and Troye Sivan.