As the country and the world lines up against Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, the corrupt leader of Libya whose violent reactions to protesters demanding his dismissal from office has shocked the world, some of music’s hottest stars are getting dragged through the mud for performing for his family. Last week, Wikileaks revealed that Beyonce, Usher, Mariah Carey, and 50 Cent were among the performers who received millions to perform for the Libyan dictator in recent years.
News of this caused a stir in the industry. Howie Klein, former president of Reprise Records and DownWithTyranny! blogger, commented that “for very, very wealthy American and British pop stars to take part in this kind of thing makes me want to puke.”
According to Rolling Stone, Mariah Carey performed for one of Qaddafi’s sons on New Year’s Eve in 2008 at a party in the Carribean. She was paid $1 million to sing four songs at the event, an extravagant sum to say the least. Beyonce and Usher performed at a similar New Year’s bash the following year for a yet undisclosed amount. 50 Cent also performed for Qaddafi’s son, Muatassim, at a festival in Venice in 2005.
And that might not be all. Rolling Stone quoted an unnamed music business source, referring to Muatassim’s parties, saying, “They’ve done it for tons of artists. Those guys are all over the world.”
David T. Viecelli, a prominent agent whose clients include the Grammy-winning Arcade Fire, skipped the visceral descriptions but agreed with Klein’s knee-jerk nausea, telling Rolling Stone: “People put a big paycheck on the table, and people don’t consider where the money is coming from, or what they’re at least passively endorsing. I don’t want to specifically say Beyoncé or Mariah Carey behaved unethically, because I don’t know all the details. But…given what we know about Qaddafi and what his rule has been about, you have to willfully turn a blind eye in order to accept that money, and I don’t think it’s ethical.”
Reps for Carey, Beyonce, Usher, and 50 have all refused to comment, and none of the artists have made any statement to the press regarding the concerts as of this post.
But one singer who’d kept her name out of the headlines thus far, Nelly Furtado, came forward on Monday and promised to donate the money she received from Qaddafi to charity. Furtado tweeted: “In 2007, I received 1million$ from the Qaddafi clan to perform a 45 min. Show for guests at a hotel in Italy. I am going to donate the $.” Although details about the charity she will give the money to are not yet available, reps from her label say they’re coming soon.
Furtado’s donation is exactly what many in the music industry are demanding from the rest of the entertainers.
As more and more details emerge about the extravagant spending of the Qaddafi regime, the pop stars’ choices to accept the money seems increasingly wrong. Still, I do have some sympathy for the performers. After all, I must shamefully admit that I had no idea who Qaddafi was before this year. Perhaps it’s wrong to expect the stars to have made the correct choice in the past. Besides, as R.E.M’s agent Buck Williams points out, “Ninety percent of the time the artist has no clue. You hear about these things, it’s generally after the fact. But the majority of my artists, if they knew something was funded by Qaddafi, they would not play it, and morally it would not rest well with them.”
But however it’s resting with the artists in question, we’re certainly not hearing about it. With all of the recent and ongoing terror in Libya, the artists’ continued silence is unnerving and, truthfully, disgusting.
Many say this uprising in Libya is directly due to the recent successful protests in Egypt against then-President Hosni Mubarak. But this protest has been anything but peaceful. Qaddafi killed thousands of his own citizens in the past few weeks after he ordered his military to open fire on protesters. Just this Monday, attacks by Qaddafi escalated as he targeted three areas of opposition in Libya. As the blood shed continues, the money these performers took starts to drip. I hope that they will all soon concede the money to charities or the Libyan people for both the sake of the protesters, their own consciences, and to set a good example for performers worldwide.Tags: $1 million, 50 Cent, Arcade Fire, Beyonce, Buck Williams, charity, Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, David T. Viecelli, DownWithTyranny!, Egypt, Egyptian revolution, Hosnii Mubarak, Howie Klein, Jasmine Revolution, Libya, Mariah Carey, Muatassim, Nelly Furtado, protest, R.E.M., Reprise Records, Rolling Stone, Usher, Wikileaks