Kentfield, California, USA – Sasa Music and Ritmo Artists announced today that the planned US performance dates for the traditional Cuban music group Sierra Maestra in June and July of 2003 have been cancelled.
“We are saddened to lose this tour and the wonderful opportunity to hear these great soneros” said David Flower of Sasa Music, the group’s UK-based management agency. “The musicians had their Immigration and Naturalization Service interviews months ago, all the paperwork was filed and in order and the INS was prepared to approve visas for the group. The only item pending was the required Federal Bureau of Investigation background check. For reasons we’re still trying to identify, the background check was not completed by the FBI in a timely manner so that the INS could process the visas required for the tour.” David Gaar of Ritmo Artists, the booking agency responsible for putting together the tour, added: “The group’s I-129 petition was approved by INS on April 9th yet, as of today, there has been no reply back from the FBI on the background checks that are now required due to post 9-11 security regulations…we had enlisted the help of multiple State Representatives who implored that the group’s file be expedited immediately. Those pleas, unfortunately, seem to have fallen upon deaf ears and have been met with no official reply from the FBI.”
However, representatives from Sasa and UK record label World Music Network confirmed that the group will proceed with their three Canadian dates: two performances at Canada Festival D’Ete International in Quebec City on July 8 and 9 and one at Canada Nuits D’Afrique in Montreal on July 10.
“In the post 9/11 climate, many other international artists have been forced to cancel US tours due to visa-related problems,” said Phil Stanton of the UK’s World Music Network. “Yet despite the inconvenience to the group, its many US fans and all those who laboured to bring Sierra Maestra to the US, we are encouraged by the fact that there was no conditional refusal by the INS for the US dates. We hope that Sierra Maestra will be able to complete the FBI background check and that a new round of dates in the US can be set for later this year or next.”
The tour would have been Sierra Maestra’s first in four years and their most extensive US run to date.