The establishment of the Galactic Empire following the end of the Clone Wars brought with it an age of draconian censure to the music of the galaxy. The Imperial Board of Culture was founded, whose purpose was to foment pro-Imperial thought and limit or outright ban any message contrary to the New Order in popular entertainment. The board reviewed all holo-films, novels, and sound slugs prior to their uploading to the galactic distribution nets, and issued them one of three ratings. Pro-Imperial or totally innocuous works, such as “The Mantooine Minuet” (a personal favorite of Emperor Palpatine), the Navy’s imposing parade anthem, “Imperial March,” the neo-waltzes and ganther dances of Nabicci Futana, and the ballads of the Ho’Din diva Annadayle Fayde were passed outright. Works deemed worthless or mildly offensive received a scarlet rating, such as mainstream Core World band Starburst, the track listing of whose second release Only In Your Dreams was deemed offensive and possibly political in nature. Scarlet releases were issued with a warning message, but more significantly, possession of scarlet material could be considered a misdemeanor offense at the discretion of Imperial officials, leading to artists and consumers being conveniently arrested or penalized as subversives (like the Alderaanian band Red Line who disappeared entirely after their vocal condemnation of the Ghorman Massacre at a live performance). The third action of the Imperial Board of Culture was to outright ban politically charged, anti-Imperial works, fining artists and consumers alike up to 1000 credits and imprisoning them. The rowdy scrak band Billi B And The Paradise Gang were early victims. Anti-Imperial group Deeply Religious dutifully submitted all three of their albums, Deeply Religious, The Emperor Of Air And Darkness, and Advanced Explosive Handbook, to the IBoC. All three were banned and subsequently released and distributed on the black market.
The anti-alienism of the New Order was perhaps nowhere more evident than in the Imperial City premiere of The Kallea Cycle by Maestro Trebian Shullos in 3 ABY. An opera about the forging of the Hydian Way hyperspace route, the Duros explorer Banu Hydia was shamelessly portrayed by Chandrilan human bass singer Amaro Fonteen in ridiculous green facepaint and mock Duro makeup instead of by an actual Duro double-bass vocalist.
The Empire’s xenophobic policies sidetracked the careers of numerous non-human artists, overriding even the authority of the Intergalactic Federation of Musicians. Countless artists and groups were discouraged into early break ups or found their performances regulated to smoky Outer Rim cantinas and the pleasure palaces of undiscerning crimelords. The Dance Lords of The Bith, whose music dominated the hottest clubs on Coruscant in 1 ABY, faded to obscurity within a year. The all-Bith Vortices, destined for greatness after charting with their single “If I Could Only Let Go And Cry,” dispersed before they came into their own, and the Wookiee clarion trumpeter Khyyynett was suspiciously killed by Trandoshan mercenaries during the gala christening of the luxury repulsortrain, Gem of Alderaan. Superstar producer and kloo horn player Ballifore Figg and singer Jardra, who formed Hyperspaze And The Jump Lanes, persevered, publishing their underground jizz album Trench Warfare to wide acclaim. The band stayed a leap ahead of the Empire throughout the war, even performing for Rebel Alliance troops on scattered safeworlds across the galaxy. The Jump Lanes may have contributed the track “Lost Voices” to the eternally banned, politically minded Red Shift Limit, an underground supergroup named partly in memory of Red Line, whose roster was made up of anonymously rotating musicians victimized by the New Order’s specist and totalitarian precepts. The Twi’Lek singer and wildly popular holo-pinup girl Anj’a defied conventions with a number one hit song, “Booombaaa Booombaa Bombashella,” but it was the only major release by a non-human artist to top the charts under Imperial rule.
Letaki bandleader Evar Orbus and His Galactic Jizz-Wailers didn’t fare so well. A visionary impresario with an unfortunate penchant for double dealing, in the later years of the Clone Wars he secured the respected talents of Pa’lowick songstress Sy Snootles (of Crazy Wicked Witch fame) and discovered not only the positively electric Ortolan Red Ball Jett keyboardist Max Rebo, but Kitonak flutist Droopy McCool and soulful Yuzzum wailer Joh Yowza as well. They released a string of popular hits including “Jedi Rocks,” “(That Joyous Night) I Ate My Mate,” and “Lapti Nek” (“Shapin’ Up And Workin’ Out”). Part of Orbus’ genius also led to his downfall. He was at the forefront of the Huttese music scene, choosing to compose songs in the language of the dominant crimebeings of the Galaxy so as to directly appeal to them and build a wealthy fanbase. Perhaps his rubbing elbows with notorious underworld figures inspired him to rip off his own band at regular intervals. Eventually he met his match when he booked Chalmun’s cantina on Tatooine and arrived at Mos Eisely to find Fiery Figrin D’an and The Modal Nodes waiting in the docking bay, armed. Heated words were exchanged, and the bad tempered Bith legend shot Orbus dead.
Max Rebo took over the leadership of the group (some say under the manipulation of star singer Sy Snootles), changing its name to The Max Rebo Band and adding on a trio of sexy backup dancers and growdi harmonique sensation Rappertunie. They auditioned for Jabba The Hutt, who offered them a lifetime contract in exchange for room, board, and all the food they could eat, which Max Rebo impulsively accepted. Thunder drummer Ak-Rev and Figrin Da’n’s own brother Barquin joined the group, and they were a staple of Jabba’s court until the Hutt crimelord was killed. Three of the band formed The Palpatones and enjoyed limited success in the Outer Rim with a hit single, “Kick The Ranat.” Rebo played exclusively for the Alliance, McCool wandered off into the Dune Sea, and Sy Snootles ended her days as a spice addict.
Figrin D’an And The Modal Nodes were almost another casualty of the Empire’s rise. A hot jatz band playing backup for Epoh Trebor in the waning days of the Clone Wars, they gradually evolved their sound until they were the most respected jizz group in the Galaxy, earning hits with the standards “Mad About Me, Solitary World,” the fanfar-heavy “Tears Of Aquanna, Worm Case,” and their popular cover of the yerk classic “Dune Sea Special.” The all-Bith band was not without its foibles though. Omni box master Tech Mo’r was a veteran drunk, fanfarrist Tedn Dahai was an ex-Navy scout, Lirin Car’n was a tough ex-mercenary, and Figrin himself was a temperamental sabaac gambler who famously owned (and once lost) all the band’s instruments, save for the level headed anchor of the group, fizzz player Doikk Na’ts. After the dissolution of the Republic and the enactment of the New Order’s anti-alien laws led to a gradual decline in livelihood, the embittered Figrin took the Modal Nodes to Tatooine and unwisely contracted them with Jabba The Hutt. After witnessing the Hutt’s psychopathic cruelty towards subordinates, the band began to look for a way out of their deal, finding it in the wedding of rival Whiphid crimelord Lady Valarian, for a hefty three thousand credits, enough to get them off world. However, in the midst of the gig, Jabba’s bounty hunters arrived to bring the band home. Luckily for them a troop of Imperial stormtroopers chose the same time to crack down on Valarian, and the Modal Nodes escaped with bartender Wuher in the confusion, who got them in with the wookiee Chalmun at his cantina. As related above, when Figrin learned of the booking of Evar Orbus’ jizz-wailers at the same venue, he famously armed the band and met his rival at the docking bay, personally insuring the exclusivity of their contract and putting an end to Orbus’ prospects. As the Civil War wound down, the Modal Nodes eventually gained renewed popularity following years of exile.
With a dearth of cutting edge talent allowed to perform in the Galaxy at large, many innocuous artists of questionable appeal stepped in to fill the void. The up and coming Alderaanian composer Thelaa blatantly plagiarized the works of a minor, long-forgotten musician named Salyer. The Emperor’s New Clothes, a militant, loud and fast pro-Imperial minga band from Corulag, gained early rare approval from the Imperial Board Of Culture, with songs like “Supremacy” and “Death Star Rising” (released mere days after the destruction of Alderaan by the superweapon, suggesting a deeper cooperation with the Empire than was perhaps publicly known) being in particularly bad taste. The Inner Rim sensation Hova Mensk And The Blurtones made a career stealing from the catalog of a Kubazian jizz band called The Sozzenels.
A few performers made a modest name for themselves providing simple entertainment at this time. The easy jizz of Mirt Alpitt And The Dust Storms was a favorite in the Outer Rim, and the aptly-named Barefoot Band found a permanent home in Bestine on Tatooine. The songs “Light The Sky On Fire” and “Hyperdrive” proved inexplicably popular in the Kashyyyk holo-market. There was a jizz band called Hutt active at this time, whose front man, Sluggo The Hutt wasn’t a hutt at all.
A few new genres of music were introduced in this era. Ontechii, a horn-heavy genre played by Kitonak musicians came into favor in the last years of the Republic. Telindel and Saerlock refined the bass mando b’ssa nuuvu sound and played sold-out shows throughout the Core and Colonies. Shirley became known as The Chanteuse Of The Stars for her exclusive performances in front of celebrities and politicians, elevating the perception of the jaunt style of pop singing in the eyes of a more respectable set with her breezy torch song “I’m Just His Satellite”. Umjing Baab and His Swinging Trio was a Rughja band that played swing-bop, which involved each band member playing ten or more instruments at once, a feat possible due to their fifteen limbs. A popular, energetic repulsorpool sound known as core drive after the bass lines, which supposedly mimicked the sounds of a hyperdrive engine, came into fashion. Bands like Proton Overload with their single “Shoot First,” and the interspecies group Distraction headed that movement. The latter was infamous for the stage antics of Herglic member Enni Anni, who regularly smashed sound systems and instruments and urged the audience to violence. Even Enni Anni’s was unmatched by the group Boba Fett And The Assassin Droids, the so-called ‘Galaxy’s original talent-free band,’ who performed their own (perhaps unintentionally) blaring, screechy version of core drive. On tour promoting the release of their much anticipated first album, they clashed with their own opening act, Dead Rebels, in the middle of the latter’s performance of “Death Star Diva,” knocking the lead singer cold with a Mandalorian bes’bev (a kind of flute/weapon).
The freedom of expression known and celebrated in early eras was almost nonexistent in the time of the Galactic Civil War, thanks to the strict policies of the New Order, yet a few artists did take stands of a sort. Lenneiran jatz musician Fitz Roi stunned an audience on Esseles into silence when he came on stage to play “Tymin’ Downband” on his faln horn dressed in the robes of the outlawed Jedi Knights. Corellian militiaman-turned folk singer Grondorn Muse, famous for his “Ballad Of Star’s End, Those Old Spacer’s Blues,” and for breaking out in the traditional Space Pirate Boogie to close his performances, was blacklisted by the Empire and joined the Alliance To Restore The Republic.
Yet there was an even darker side of the IBoC. The level of its assistance of the New Order in the outright persecution of artists who refused to knuckle under wasn’t fully known until after the fall of the Empire. The New Order sought to expunge rebelliousness from the Galaxy, and instituted barbarous methods of quelling protest; namely assassination and execution.
Legendary vandfillist Maxa Jandovar was arrested on Morvogodine and died in Imperial custody, as was jizz-wail legend Miracle Merriko, Brullian Dyl, Janet Lalasha, M’lar’Nkai’Kambric, Orin Mersai, and Kang and Lubrichs. It is known that many political dissidents were sentenced to the spice mines of Kessel and there turned loose to be hunted down as escapees, likely by the bounty hunter Bane Malar, who was retained on Kessel for that purpose. Afterwards, their music catalogs were wiped from the networks, chips confiscated from shops and melted down by agents of the IBoC. They effectively disappeared from memory.
The end of the Galactic Civil War and the fall of Palpatine, but most especially the dissolution of the Imperial Board of Culture by the New Republic, slowly eased restrictions on musical performers. There was a resurgence of non-human artists. Razzeldy Croom became a star in the Core Worlds, S’kytri balladeer Gayman Neeloid’s romantic “The Sound of Her Wings” was an early success, and even the mechanical band The Rolling Droids got into the act, creating a genre called warbat, which played well to hangars full of appreciative astromechs. Their opening act, Danny And The Droids’ biggest hit was “I Wanna Weld Your Hand.” The third opera inspired by the last words of the Old Republic Jedi Danzigorro Potts recovered from a datapad dating back to 24,500 BBY was composed at this time.
Other new genres swiftly appeared. Undervector created complex melodies constructed from the natural sounds of their native planet which could also be made into mathematical equations to define the output of a quantum vector. Hugely popular with technophiles, their style was an acquired taste for others. A style called sparkle-bop dominated the networks for a time, spearheaded by the deep throated heartthrob Jukas Alim. Yuzzum outlaw singer Fugitive Fod, rose to prominence in the Corporate Sector. The band Ghost Jedi from Mrrlst rode the haunting single “A Soldier’s Life Is A Sorry Thing” to stardom. The former cantina band The Screaming Jawas carried on the tradition of faulty core, their music described as a “terrifying screech of sound and synthesized thunder.”
During the Yuuzhan Vong war, rainbow qaana were introduced to the Galaxy, being a kind of insect the Vong invaders kept for their ability to produce an ethereal music with their clicking mandibles, which they played during special ceremonies.
In an ironic turn, and beyond all hope, the work of hundreds of artists murdered in the New Order’s fervent purge were finally rediscovered due to the efforts of a notorious killer, former Devaronian Army Captain Kardue’sai’Malloc, The Butcher Of Montellian Serat. Under Imperial command, Malloc had orchestrated the massacre of seven hundred men, women, and children during a rebellion on his home world. He resigned from the service before he could be tried as a war criminal by his own people, and fled Devaron with an Alliance-posted five million credit bounty on his head, assuming the identity of ‘Labria.’ An avid music lover with an already extensive collection of priceless recordings, Malloc traveled the Galaxy following his touring idols, collecting rare sound slugs and preserving music chips. He followed Maxa Jandovar for five years before she was apprehended and killed, and drifted to Tattooine. Malloc learned of the presence of Figrin D’an and The Modal Nodes, his favorite jizz band, at Jabba The Hutt’s, and masterminded a complex plan to free them from their contract with the Hutt and get them playing at Chalmun’s Cantina. He instigated a shootout and the wedding of Whiphid crimelord Lady Valarian and even cheated D’an at sabaac to win the band’s instruments and insure their cooperation. He spent the intervening years as a staple of the cantina, but in 17 ABY, the Devaronians tracked him to Tatooine, and after killing three mercenaries, Malloc took his music collection and fled to a remote planet called Peppel, setting himself up in a primitive hut surrounded by high level security systems. All his precautions proved bootless though when the infamous Boba Fett came for him, tempted by the long standing bounty. Fett took Malloc back to Devaron to be executed, but not before the Devaronian made him promise to retrieve his priceless music and deliver it to the director of the Coruscant University School of Music. Fett proved a man of his word, and the University disseminated Malloc’s treasure trove back into the Galaxy.
Thus an entire era of priceless musical history was saved by a condemned murderer and the Galaxy’s deadliest bounty hunter.
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Edward M. Erdelac is the author of The Merkabah Rider series, Terovolas, Buff Tea, and Coyote’s Trail. His fiction appears in over a dozen anthologies. He wrote the definitive story about boxing in a galaxy far, far away for StarWars.com’s Hyperspace feature, and created the backstories of m-HYD binary hydromech, Bane Malar, and Yoxgit.