In a pretty radical move, Sony Entertainment has decided to pull a track by the Malian harp player Toumani Diabete from the upcoming Little Big Planet game. The track “Tapha Niang” contains two lines quoted from the Quran. After a poster on a Sony message board started complaining, the company decided to withdraw the track and recall all games that were already in the shops.
Toumani Diabete is an award-winning player of the kora, an acoustic African harp. His gentle, dexterous music has been enjoyed by World music audiences for many years. The track “Tapha Niang” features on the album “Boulevard de l’indépendance”. In the online message, the poster claimed that using words from the Quran was offensive to Muslims. Given the nature of Diabete’s soulful music – and the fact that he himself is Muslim – this seems highly unlikely. However Sony were taking no chances and pulled the track.
The two lines basically say the equivalent of “All things must pass”, or “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.
Needless to say, the usual suspects waded in with conflicting opinions about whether it is offensive or not, although I’m not sure how many Imams play video games. My own sentiment was put best in a BBC interview with a British moderate.
“The number of stakeholders in the offence industry has just grown and grown and grown. Everybody gets offended about everything,” Yasmin Alibhai-Brown of British Muslims for Secular Democracy.
In a BBC interview, Diabaté claimed:
“It’s quite normal to play music and be inspired by the words of the prophet Mohammed. It’s my way to attract and inspire people towards Islam.”
It’s a shame that one of Africa’s most spiritual composers has fallen into this trap. If people find his music offensive, what must they think of the massacres that they are encouraged to carry out in games such as “Call of Duty” and the like or the witchcraft invoked in “World of Warcraft”. I can’t help feeling there’s a very selective offence button is being pushed in this case.
Diabaté is currently touring in France and the UK.