Tripoli – An American rock band hoping to be the first Western group to play in Libya since Muammar Gaddafi came to power 35 years ago could not perform because of an administrative glitch, government officials said on Saturday.
The Heavenly States, a little-known group based in Oakland, California, had arrived in Libya on Feb. 1 to play three concerts, including one in the Roman ruins of Leptis Magna.
Government officials said there had been a problem with the group’s visa.
“They came with a tourist visa,” an official said by way of explaining the failure to grant them permission to play.
The fact that the band’s lyrics have a dose of rhetoric criticizing President Bush was not officially mentioned as a possible reason behind the cancellation of the concerts.
Their music is described in specialized media as a mix of post-punk tunes and distorted wailing violins.
The four-member band was expected to leave Tripoli late on Saturday but hoped to return within three months.
Gaddafi’s ties with West have improved in the past year, and the United States has lifted most of its sanctions against the North African state, including a ban on U.S. citizens traveling to Libya.
But while Libya is fast re-opening up to the West after decades of isolation some aspects of Western culture are still criticized in the state-run media.
Some Libyans speculated that although the band had received an invitation, the Heavenly States did not perform because of a lingering mistrust in government circles of U.S. cultural influence through Hollywood movies or pop music.
“We want to come back to Libya soon. We want to play as many shows as possible,” the band’s Australian manager, Eugene Bari, told Reuters.
“No American (rock) band has performed in Libya. There is a certain myth in America about Libya,” said lead singer Ted Nesseth. “Part of the reason to come here was to dispel the rumors. I can say it’s safer to be here than in Oakland.”