Chechnya Bans Music That Isn’t Between 80 and 116 Beats Per Minute

Officials have given artists until June 1 to rewrite material that does not fall within the accepted range

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov performs a dance at his 35th birthday celebration in 2011. STR / AFP via Getty Images

The Russian republic of Chechnya has announced a ban on music that’s either too fast or too slow. As the Guardian’s Philip Oltermann reports, officials hope to eradicate the “polluting” Western influence in the region.

“From now on, all musical, vocal and choreographic works must correspond to the tempo of 80 to 116 beats per minute,” wrote the Chechen Ministry of Culture in a translated statement earlier this month.

The new rule—approved by the republic’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov—will ensure that all Chechen music and dance productions conform to “Chechen mentality and musical rhythm.” According to the Moscow Times, artists have until June 1 to rewrite songs that don’t align with the new ban. After that deadline, they will no longer be able to play those songs in public.

“Borrowing musical culture from other peoples is inadmissible,” said Musa Dadayevhe, the culture minister, at a meeting on April 5, according to Russian media reports translated by the Guardian. “We must bring to the people and to the future of our children the cultural heritage of the Chechen people.”

Ministry of Culture of the Chechen Republic
Culture Minister Musa Dadayevhe announced the ban at a meeting on April 5.      Ministry of Culture of the Chechen Republic

With a population of 1.5 million, Chechnya is a predominantly Muslim republic located in southwestern Russia between the Black and Caspian seas. Since Kadyrov came to power in 2007, he’s been “Chechnya’s boss and Putin’s foot soldier,” as scholars Anya Free and Marat Iliyasov wrote for the Conversation last year. The leader regularly uses religion to “galvanize supporters and demonstrate his political power.”

The new music ban is the latest in a series of restrictions—including a strict dress code—that Kadyrov has imposed on his people. As CNN’s Jack Guy and Anna Chernova write, Kadyrov has gone to great lengths to “stifle any form of dissent.” The regime has been accused of numerous human rights violations, particularly against gay men.

NPR’s Rachel Treisman writes that the new ban criminalizes the majority of dance music that’s played in clubs worldwide, such as dubstep, techno and house music, which often have over 116 beats per minute.

“Some hip-hop and rap, which is typically played at speeds between 60 and 140 beats per minute, would in theory still qualify for the traditional Chechen ‘sense of rhythm’” that officials are trying to promote, as the Guardian writes.

Examples of now-banned tunes are Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” and Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” which are too fast, and the Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” which is too slow, per NBC News’ Yuliya Talmazan.

As the independent Russian news website Meduza notes, Russia’s national anthem—which is 76 beats per minute—falls outside the culture ministry’s range.

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