Madagascar holds concert against illegal logging

AP News
Posted: Sep 30, 2011 1:44 PM
Madagascar holds concert against illegal logging

Musicians in Madagascar are holding a concert Friday to promote a message against illegal logging one week ahead of an entirely different tea party-supported concert to be held in Nashville, Tennessee to support a company that had Madagascar wood seized from it.

The Madagascar musicians want to publicize the problem of illegal logging of rosewood and ebony trees on their island nation, where more than 1,000 trees a day are unlawfully felled in the Masoala rainforest, where the nation's renowned lemurs live.

"This is really urgent. As we know our forests are disappearing every day more and more," said Razia Said, a singer/songwriter and one of the organizers of Friday's concert, which organizers hope will attract up to 5,000 people.

The tea party groups, meanwhile, will hold a rally and concert Oct. 8 to support Gibson Guitar Corp.

The head of Nashville, Tennessee-based Gibson has said over the last month that his company is being unfairly targeted after an Aug. 24 raid by federal authorities at factories in Memphis and Nashville. The raids appear to be over the use of wood from India that is not finished by Indian workers.

During a 2009 raid against Gibson, chief executive Henry Juszkiewicz said authorities seized guitars and "ebony fingerboard blanks from Madagascar."

No criminal charges have been filed from either raid, Juszkiewicz said. Gibson has sworn statements and documents from the Madagascar government showing the seized wood was legally exported from that country, Juszkiewicz has said.

Juszkiewicz has publicly blasted the raids as an example of the federal government risking U.S. jobs with over-zealous regulation, and the raids rocketed up the political ladder when Juszkiewicz attended a speech by President Barack Obama as a guest of House Speaker John Boehner.

The tea party groups also took up the cause.

"Please Join us and take a Stand for Freedom and Stand with Gibson," one web-based advertisement for the concert reads.

Said, the singer from Madagascar, said she has "nothing against Gibson. It's a great guitar." But that if the company is using illegal wood from Madagascar it is costing her country its diverse and valuable areas of nature. She said it's also important to help find jobs for those in Madagascar currently working in the logging trade.

"There should not be any illegal logging, whether for guitars or anything else," she said. "Actually these things are being sold for a lot of money and the people here are not getting much out of it. We'd like it to be more sanctioned and more controlled so we can save our forests."

The U.S. group Environmental Investigation Agency said that illegal logging rose 25 percent in Madagascar in 2009, "resulting in thousands of trees being stolen from the country's national parks."

"At this concert, Madagascar's musicians are playing for the survival of the very forests where ebony and rosewood are stolen to make high-priced instruments for global markets. It is critical that musicians around the world support their plea and join the chorus asking for legal wood," said the group's Andrea Johnson.


On the Internet:

Madagascar concert:

Pro-Gibson Guitar concert: