Rapper will headline the Jeddah World Fest on July 18
Organisers of this month’s Jeddah World Fest summer music festival say the announcement that controversial singer Nicki Minaj will be the headline act shows that stereotypes about Saudi Arabia are "disappearing" and the kingdom "accepts everyone", as human rights groups and critics call on the rapper to pull out of the event.
Minaj, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago and raised in New York, will headline the Jeddah World Fest live music festival in the Saudi city on July 18.
According to the festival’s website the event - which will take place at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium - will be “one of the biggest music events ever staged in the Middle East”.
Other performers announced so far include British former One Direction singer Liam Payne, American musician Steve Aoki and CLUB MTV Ambassadors R3WIRE and VARSKI.
“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,” Raed Abuzinada, chief of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority and director general of Jeddah Season, was quoted as saying by Arab News.
“She is an absolute global icon,” Robert Quirke, the chairman of event organisers ROQU Media International, said of the choice to invite Nicki Minaj to perform at the event.
“She has 130 million followers on Instagram, she is considered one of the top 10 female performers of all time, she’s had multiple awards and she’ll have her new album come out this year. She is going to get a lot of attention for Jeddah in the most positive way you can imagine. 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.”
The announcement was met with a mixed response of surprise and shock from commentators on social media.
Human rights groups also called for Minaj to pull out of the event. In an open latter, the Human Rights Foundation said there was “no good reason for Minaj to do business” in Saudi Arabia.
However, the criticism is unlikely to deter the 36 year-old singer as a similar backlash against her 2015 decision to play a concert in Angola did not stop her from taking to the stage.