How Omar Souleyman got his gig back: Watch out Stockholm!
A renowned Syrian musician Omar Souleyman has been granted a visa to perform in Sweden after a controversial ban was overturned, The Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday.
The singer, 47, was scheduled to play at Stockholm Music and Arts festival but was denied a visa after Sweden stopped accepting Syrian citizens into the country fearing an influx of refugees.
Souleyman’s manager, Mina Tosti, told the London-based newspaper that Sweden was forced to reverse the ban after Way Out West festival in Gothenburg put him in their line-up despite him not having permission to enter the country.
Sweden’s initial decision to ban Souleyman from entering the country had prompted an international outcry and concerns about the growing power of the country’s anti-immigration lobby.
“We were told the reason the visa had been denied to Omar because Sweden do not issue any visas to Syrian nationals anymore,” Tosti said.
She added: “They claimed that there was an extreme risk that Omar would seek a resident’s permit as soon as he arrives.”
Souleyman started his career in 1994 playing at weddings and selling live recordings at local kiosks to rise as a cult favorite among world music fans across the globe.
The artist, who sings in both Arabic and Kurdish, has his music often described as “Syrian techno” for its fast beats.
“I was extremely surprised. The official reason for him not being granted a visa was that his risk of staying in Sweden was too big, but we gave them the facts: he has his family living in Syria[and] his tickets back and forth [to the festival].Its embarrassing that Sweden was the first country ever not to grant him a visa,” Way Out West festival promoter, Niklas Herrström, said in defense of Souleyman.
Souleyman told the Guardian that he will “never defect to Sweden.”
“Thank God that the visa has been finally resolved. I’m happy now and looking forward to singing for everyone and celebrating. Inshallah, it will all be good.”
The two-day festival started on Aug. 8.