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Music community mourns after Paris attacks

By | Published on Monday 16 November 2015


The multiple gun and bomb attacks in Paris on Friday night unsurprisingly resonated around the world this weekend, but within the music community especially, after the most deadly of the attacks occurred at an Eagles Of Death Metal concert in the French capital’s Bataclan theatre.

129 people were killed and a further 352 wounded after attacks at six locations in the city on Friday night. 89 of the fatalities were at the Eagles Of Death Metal show, where three attackers with assault rifles opened fire, subsequently taking audience members hostage. According to reports, the three attackers spoke about Syria and Iraq amid the carnage, before police stormed the venue. Two of the attackers then detonated suicide belts, while the third was killed by police gunfire.

As the French government locked down its borders and declared a state of emergency, Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, though the specifics of what that means remain unclear at this time as investigators seek to identify the killers and any accomplices involved in organising the assaults.

Among the victims were a number of people working in and around the music industry, including Nick Alexander, a British tour merchandiser for numerous bands including Eagles Of Death Metal.

As countless former colleagues paid tribute online, Alexander’s family confirmed that he was among the victims, telling reporters: “Nick was not just our brother, son and uncle, he was everyone’s best friend – generous, funny and fiercely loyal. Nick died doing the job he loved and we take great comfort in knowing how much he was cherished by his friends around the world”.

Meanwhile on Saturday, Universal Music CEO Lucian Grainge confirmed to his staff that Thomas Ayad, a product manager at the major’s Mercury Records subsidiary, had also been killed during that attack at the Bataclan. He wrote: “This is an unspeakably appalling tragedy. I cannot even begin to express the depth of my sorrow. On behalf of everyone here at UMG, we extend our most profound sympathies to his parents and all of his friends and family”.

On Twitter, Universal Music France President Pascal Nègre said three members of the Universal “family” were among those killed, including Ayad, and also “Marie and Manu”. It is thought that refers to former Universal Music France marketers Marie Mosser and Manu Perez.

Another victim was French music journalist Guillaume Decherf, a rock and metal correspondent from Les Inrocks. His colleagues at the magazine said they were “shocked by his death” and that their “thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones”.

A number of artists cancelled shows in the wake of the attacks, some because of the state of emergency declared in France, others out of respect for the victims. Among those cancelling concerts were U2, Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Deftones and Motörhead.

The politically motivated attacks at a cultural event will likely raise concerns about security at theatres and other music venues across the world. Attackers reportedly failed to gain access to Paris’s Stade De France because of the actions of a security guard, resulting in suicide bomb blasts outside rather than inside the stadium, which was hosting a France-Germany football match at the time.

Consideration will now no doubt be given as to whether security should be ramped up at smaller venues and the practicalities of such a move, and whether Friday’s incidents really mean there is a significant risk of future similar attacks at cultural spaces in other Western cities.

Of course, the media in America and Europe are often accused of ignoring conflicts that occur far away, only tuning in when something tragic happens on their doorstep. It’s a valid accusation, though inevitably tragedy is going to resonate strongest when it occurs not only closer to home, but in such a familiar environment.

After the Charlie Hebdo shootings, journalists across the globe felt the impact of something so horrific happening amid something so mundane, the kind of editorial meeting that routinely takes place at every magazine and newspaper around the world. Though at least that time the average journalist could convince themselves that the circumstances of the controversial satirical magazine were unique, which in no way justified the crime, but perhaps distanced the incident from their own personal experiences.

But for those who make and work in music, who are now taking in Friday night’s events, that kind of show in that kind of venue is exactly the kind of place in which they find themselves on a very regular basis. That such a place could be invaded in such a horrific way is going to resonate strongly.

Nevertheless, the music community – while mourning those who died – will no doubt work hard to ensure that that kind of environment remains unchanged for artists and fans alike, while hopefully working ever harder to support the wider movements that seek to help those who face such conflict on a much more regular basis.

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