Two Indonesian choir groups denied visas to perform at music festival in the United States

Paduan Suara Mahasiswa Universitas Hasanuddin, a choir group from Indonesia, performing at the inaugural Sing ‘n’ Joy festival in Princeton, New Jersey last weekend. Two other Indonesian choir groups that were scheduled to perform at the festival were unable to get visas to enter the US. Photo: Interkultur

Anybody with an Indonesian passport will tell you how hard it can be to get visas just to enter countries like the United States, and things may be getting even harder for Indonesian wanting to visit America under the new administration of President Trump.

Three Indonesian choir groups were scheduled to perform at the inaugural Sing ‘n’ Joy festival, an international choir music celebration featuring groups from all over the world, in Princeton, New Jersey, last weekend.  

One of those groups, Paduan Suara Mahasiswa Universitas Hasanuddin, was able to come to America to join the festival. However, the other two groups, Paduan Suara El-Shaddai Universitas Sumatera Utara and the Vox Angelica Choir, were unable to do so due to problems getting visas from the US government.

In a note posted on the Paduan Suara El-Shaddai Facebook page, the group’s leaders apologize that they were unable to get the visas secured despite extensive efforts on their part and applying multiple times. According to the post, the reason given for their applications being rejected was “the absence of a strong attachment to their country of origin”, which essentially means the US government is afraid that they would not want to go back to Indonesia and instead stay in the US illegally.

MAAF & TERIMAKASIHSalam sejahtera bagi kita semua.Saudara/sahabat/kolega/rekan paduan saudara terkasih…

Posted by Paduan Suara El-Shaddai Usu on Friday, 17 February 2017


The groups were optimistic they could still participate in the festival just days before it was about to start on Feb 17, but the last official denial from the US embassy was only given on Feb 15, forcing last-minute travel cancellations.

“They retried it three times,” Ella Schmiede, an artistic assistant for Interkultur, one of the group’s organizing the festival, told “They still had the hope they could make it.”

It is not clear if new immigration policies under the Trump administration, which controversially released an executive order banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations (not including Indonesia) from entering the United States, might have prevented the choir groups from getting their visas, but some of the festival’s organizers alluded to that as a possibility.

The jurors of Sing ‘n’ Joy sent this message and video to El Shaddai Choir and Vox Angelica to express their condolences and how much the two groups were missed at the festival, but also their hopes that they will see both at other international events in the near future.

“Due to unforeseen circumstances with the recent U.S. policies, the choir, El Shaddai and Vox Angelica were not able to travel to our festival. And we are saddened by this. But… regardless of the “borders” instilled by politics, there are no borders to music, no borders to unity through artistry, no borders from humanity that thrives from singing of the heart. Music brings our humaneness together, and we invite you to be a part of it. Here is our invitation and tribute”

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