Cherine Amr and Nancy Mounir (L–R) of Massive Scar Era.

Cherine Amr and Nancy Mounir (L–R) of Massive Scar Era. (Photo: My City Photos)

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Before Cherine Amr and her metal band Massive Scar Era reached the Canadian-American border, Amr thought she had taken care of everything. The band had three shows in the states, one of them during the renowned South By Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas, and Amr, an Egyptian citizen living in Canada, had visited the Egyptian embassy beforehand to ensure she had the proper paperwork.

But the agent at the border crossing near Seattle saw Amr’s Egyptian passport and told the band to wait. After several hours, the agent informed the group that they had to turn around because they didn’t have the proper visa to play SXSW. The band had B-1 visas (for tourists) and they were told they needed P-2 visas.

“I told him we had played twice at SXSW already, and I had my visa issued from the Cairo embassy under the impression that we were going to play,” Amr said in a phone interview Monday. “He said, ‘Just because a person gave you this visa doesn’t mean its lawful.'”

The issue wasn’t the two free shows in Denver and Utah the band had scheduled for after the festival — the agent was fine with those, according to Amr. It was specifically the SXSW show.

Amr says she called a SXSW representative who was willing to speak with the agent but he wouldn’t take the phone. Worst of all, the agent said the band’s bassist, Dylan Pieter Wijdenes-Charles, couldn’t cross the border either, even though he’s First Nation. Per the Jay Treaty of 1794, Wijdenes-Charles should’ve been able to cross the border without any issues since he carried an identification card provided by his tribe.

“[The agent] looked at Dylan and said, ‘Regarding you, of course you’re welcome into the United States whenever you want to. However, you should’ve brought a DNA test,'” Amr said.

Before the band made their way back to their hometown of Vancouver, Amr recorded a Facebook Live video where she described her experiences. As of press time, it had almost 9,000 views.

Massive Scar Era was one of three bands headed to SXSW that was stopped from entering the states within the past week. Last Thursday, the Italian post-punk band Soviet Soviet was held an airport for several hours before being deported, despite having booked a full tour. (Read about why it happened here.) On Monday afternoon, the London-based record label Brownswood Recordings announced that two of its bands, Yussef Kamaal and United Vibrations, had to cancel their SXSW shows because their members had their visas revoked “at the 11th hour.”

“The situation is infuriating and desperately unfair to all involved,” Brownswood Recordings wrote on their Facebook page. “The fact that the visa was issued and then revoked has left no time to appeal the decision as the band were due to travel tomorrow.”

Amr said she cried after being denied from entering the United States. She had left Egypt in 2015 to escape the oppressive political climate only to be held back by the politics of a different nation.

“[The agent] actually said, ‘Well, some people are using SXSW to protest,'” Amr said. “I am sure [the denial] was political.”

Egypt isn’t one of the six Muslim-majority countries included in President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban, but Amr said it was clear that the agent had an issue with her ethnicity. On top of the discrimination, Amr is also angry about her plans — in which she invested heavily — being ruined. She had found new band members just to play these shows, and the band had invested over $1,000 in the tour (equipment, plane tickets, and more) that they won’t be getting back, she said.

“We don’t have anything — anything — against the U.S.,” Amr said. “We just wanted to get in, play our shows, promote ourselves and go back, you know?”


Egyptian-Canadian Band Blocked at Border from Heading to SXSW 22 March,2017Kevin L. Jones
  • Dam Spahn

    What kind of a country does this? I can’t believe this exhibition of fascist abhorrence is coming from the USA. We are so lost.

    • Punkyou

      Normally I’d agree with you but this isn’t about race or religion. It’s about unfair cultural exchange practices between the US and Canada. The price we have to pay to play there is insane but you guys can come play here without a problem, American bands can just waltz across into Canada.

  • Agamemnon Alexi Atreus

    Same thing several times for many bands from Europe including the bands hypocrisy and at the gates ….
    As all of them are famous bands from over 20 years not a new or unknown names.
    Law codes over all

  • Punkyou

    Canadian bands have been turned away at the border for years for not having the P-2 permit though, this isn’t new. I’ve had friends turned away at the border for this exact reason.
    If you’re a band playing shows and getting paid, you either need to lie at the border (and hopefully not get caught) or get the permit. They didn’t do their homework. Pretty simple.

  • Punkyou

    Honestly, this looks like a cheap politicizing ploy for attention and webhits.
    What the REAL problem is, is the sanctions and rules America applies to artists and musicians showing and performing in the United States. This has been a thing for decades. It has nothing to do with race or religion. It’s the American Musicians Union and Federal Government squeezing money out of artists because we are taking your money out of the country.
    Kevin L. Jones needs to rethink his angle on this story. Grabbing at the latest socio-political hot topic is distasteful.


Kevin L. Jones

Kevin Jones reports on the Bay Area arts scene for KQED. He loves his wife and two kids, and music today makes him feel old.