US rapper Kanye West is the latest musician to find himself embroiled in controversy after reportedly accepting millions of dollars to perform for a Central Asian autocrat.
West was shown rapping at the lavish wedding of Aysultan Nazarbayev, grandson of Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, on August 31, in video posted on Instagram. For his labors he was paid “a hefty sum” of around $3 million, celebrity gossip site TMZ.com reported, citing “our Central Asian sources.”
The news sparked controversy in American and British media amid concerns over human rights abuses in Kazakhstan, where Nazarbayev brooks no opposition to his rule of over two decades.
The nuptials between Aysultan Nazarbayev (a 23-year-old senior lieutenant in Kazakhstan’s armed forces and the youngest son of the president’s daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva and her ex-husband Rakhat Aliyev) and Alima Boranbayeva (a 20-year-old art student in London and daughter of oil baron Kayrat Boranbayev) were celebrated at Almaty’s luxury Royal Tulip Hotel as the ruling family welcomed a new addition to the sprawling Nazarbayev clan.
Cost was evidently no object to a family which, according to Forbes Kazakhstan, contains millionaires and billionaires: Aysultan’s mother, Dariga Nazarbayeva, worth $593 million; his brother, banker Nurali Aliyev, worth $200 million; and his aunt and uncle Timur Kulibayev and Dinara Kulibayeva, worth $1.3 billion each.
This is not the first time that Western musicians have come to grief for performing for Central Asia’s autocrats: Jennifer Lopez was forced to apologize after crooning “Happy Birthday, Mr President” at a party for Turkmen dictator Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov this June. Back in 2010, British rock star Sting got stung by the media after performing for Gulnara Karimova, daughter of Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov. The following year he agreed to perform in Kazakhstan on Nazarbayev’s birthday, but pulled out following a belated twinge of conscience.