Nicki Minaj to headline festival in Saudi Arabia

Rapper Nicki Minaj to bring her 'Super Bass' to Saudi Arabia
3 min read
03 July, 2019
Award-winning rapper Nicki Minaj will perform in the coastal city of Jeddah on July 18 in an outdoor music festival.
Award winning Trinidadian-US rapper Nicki Minaj will perform in Saudi Arabia [AFP/Getty]
Hip-hop star Nicki Minaj will headline an outdoor music festival in Saudi Arabia later this month, sparking outrage from activists and fans of the singer. 

One of the world's best-selling music artists, she will perform alongside Steve Aoki and Liam Payne at the Jeddah World Hest, held on 18 July at King Abdullah Sports Stadium.

The female rapper is known for her outlandish, provocative style and hits like "Anaconda," where she raps about her "big fat" backside. Her lyrics are often laced with profanities and her skin-bearing music videos often include twerking.

Reactions on social media ranged from shock and joy to criticism and disappointment. In a profanity-laced video posted on Twitter and viewed more than 37,000 times, a Saudi woman wearing a loose headscarf accuses the Saudi government of hypocrisy for inviting Minaj to perform but requiring women who attend the concert to wear the modest full-length robe known as the abaya.

"She's going to go and shake her ass and all her songs are indecent and about sex and shaking ass and then you tell me to wear the abaya," the Saudi woman says. "What the hell?"

The event will be covered by MTV, Arab News reported. Raed Abuzinada, sector development chief of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority (GEA) and director general of Jeddah Season, said the Jeddah World Fest would be the "biggest music event of its kind".

"There is a stereotype of the kingdom all over the world, and today it is disappearing. In its place is a new picture of the Kingdom, that accepts everyone," said Abuzinada.

Robert Quirke, president of event organiser Roqu Media International, said the event would promote Jeddah and Saudi Arabia. 

"She's going to be actively on her social media, she'll be posting right from the stage in Jeddah and at her hotel in Jeddah. Everyone is going to know that Nicki Minaj has landed in Saudi Arabia," said Quirke of the Trinidadian-US rapper. 

Nicki Minaj will be the first to perform at the Jeddah World Fest, followed by American DJ Steve Aoki. A second wave of festival performers will be announced later this week.

With 130 million followers on Instagram, Nicki Minaj is an award-winning artist and a household name. She is due to release an album later this year. 

Nicki Minaj has previously performed in the UAE. At a performance in Dubai on her 2016 Pink Print World Tour she said: "I didn't think Dubai would be this turnt up."

Over the past several months, the kingdom has seen performances by Mariah Carey, Enrique Iglesias, the Black Eyed Peas, rapper Sean Paul, and DJs David Guetta and Tiesto.

Loosening restrictions on entertainment are seen as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's programme of "liberalising" reforms that he vows will return the ultra-conservative kingdom to moderate Islam.

But plans to open a nightclub in the coastal city of Jeddah were cancelled last month after social networking sites witnessed a storm of protests against the club's opening.

These reforms, including giving women the right to drive, come amid criticism over the detention and ongoing trials of several women activists in Saudi Arabia, seen as part of a broad crackdown on dissent.

Saudi Arabia has also faced a global backlash after the crown prince was blamed for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was murdered by a hit-squad in the kingdom's Turkey-based consulate.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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