An Algerian court has handed three people prison sentences for “negligence” over a deadly stampede at an August concert, a judicial source told AFP Thursday.
Five people aged between 13 and 22 were killed and more than 80 injured on August 22 when fans thronged an entrance of a stadium in Algiers where France-based rapper Soolking was performing.
Samy Benchikh, the former head of Algeria’s public body for organising concerts, was sentenced to six months in prison, with three months suspended, a judicial source said on condition of anonymity.
The manager of a ticket company was handed six months in jail with four months suspended, and the same sentence was handed to the head of the company handling security at the event.
All three were charged with “negligence” after the court dropped manslaughter charges, the judicial source added.
Eleven security guards also on trial were released.
The incident forced culture minister Meriem Merdaci to resign and led to the sacking of Benchikh and Algeria’s police chief, Abdelkader Kara Bouhadba.
Soolking, 29, is a major star in Algeria, and his song “La Liberte” (Freedom) became a mainstay of the anti-government protest movement that has swept Algeria since February.
The choice of the August-20 stadium, one of the country’s oldest, to host the rapper’s sole planned concert in Algeria since his international career took off in 2018, was heavily criticised, in particular by families of the victims.
The day of the concert, large numbers of spectators were still waiting to enter shortly before the show began, and fears of not being able to enter reportedly sparked the stampede.
Tens of thousands of fans of Ivorian singer DJ Arafat, star of the hugely popular musical style “coupe-decale” who died this month in a motorbike accident, gave him a spectacular send-off at the country’s main stadium early on Saturday.
The overnight funeral concert at the 35,000-capacity Felix Houphouet-Boigny stadium in Abidjan began Friday evening and ended early Saturday when Arafat’s body was brought for a final farewell.
Placed in the centre of the football pitch, it drew wild applause. Then the mood turned sombre with fans bursting into tears.
“The ceremony was really moving,” said Raymonde Nguessan. “We have lost a great man.”
Another fan, Samuel Kablan, was in tears as he declared: “Arafat was my life, my source of inspiration.”
Throughout the night, A-list African stars such as Davido, Sidiki Diabate, Fally Ipupa and Serge Beynaud sang for the music sensation, who died aged 33 on August 12 after a motorbike crash in Ivory Coast’s main city Abidjan.
Before the ceremony, Ivorian Culture Minister Maurice Bandaman conferred on him the national order of cultural merit for “his immense contribution to the artistic radiance” of Ivory Coast.
DJ Arafat, whose given name was Ange Didier Houon, was one of the most popular African musicians in the Francophone world, and had been referred to as the “king” of coupe-decale (cut and run), an Ivorian form of dance music.
News of his death led to scenes of hysteria among some of his fans and Twitter tributes from fellow artists. President Alassane Ouattara called him “a youth icon and ambassador of Ivorian music and culture”.
Coupe-decale originated in the bars of the lively Rue Princesse in the working-class Yopougon district of Abidjan and clubs and spread across West Africa.
‘Curious about everything’
DJ Arafat was due to be buried in the Williamsville cemetery in the working-class Adjame district.
His five children were present at the concert. There was tight security at the venue with some 6,500 security forces deployed across the stadium overlooking Abidjan’s picturesque lagoon.
State radio and television broadcast the event live and giant screens installed in Yopougon and other working-class areas, as well as the upmarket Cocody-Angre district where DJ Arafat lived.
With a professional recording engineer for a father and a singer for a mother, the young DJ Arafat was well placed to discover musical techniques on the job.
“He toured the studios to learn, he was curious about everything,” said Franck Alcide Kacou, label and publishing manager of Universal Music Africa, a subsidiary of the multinational Vivendi, which produced DJ Arafat’s work from 2013.
Working as a disc jockey on Rue Princesse, DJ Arafat made his breakthrough with “Jonathan” in 2003, which he followed with a string of other hits.
He “revolutionised coupe-decale by mixing sounds and rhythms. For instance, he was inspired by African traditional music, but also by Nigerian Afrobeat, by rap and by Brazilian funk,” Kacou said.
“He was also an exceptional dancer and he linked the music he made to new dance forms.”
Such broad interests were reflected on DJ Arafat’s last album “Renaissance”, released in December 2018 and featuring Maitre Gims, Dadju, Davido and Fally Ipupa.
The Ivorian star could also be prone to controversy.
“He had a divisive personality. He was very sensitive, which explains his ‘unfiltered’ reactions and clashes with other artists, which formed part of his musical career,” Kacou said.
“But this was also a matter of marketing. Arafat was a genius for communication, he used social media very well.”
Twice winner of the best artist of the year in the Coupe-Decale Awards of 2016 and 2017, Arafat already had recognition across the continent in 2012, when he was named “Best African Artist” in the pan-African Kora Music Awards.
Nicki Minaj has cancelled a performance in Saudi Arabia in a show of support for women’s and gay rights in the ultra-conservative kingdom, the US rapper said Tuesday.
Minaj’s scheduled appearance in the western city of Jeddah next week as part of a cultural festival had triggered a social media backlash over human rights in the country.
“After careful reflection, I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest,” Minaj said in a statement sent to AFP by her publicist.
“While I want nothing more than to bring my show to fans in Saudi Arabia, after better educating myself on the issues, I believe it is important for me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression.”
Minaj, known for her profanity-laced lyrics and raunchy music videos, was due to perform as the headline act of the festival — to be televised globally on MTV — as the kingdom loosens its decades-old restrictions on entertainment
Others scheduled to perform include British musician Liam Payne and American DJ Steve Aoki.
The New York-based Human Rights Foundation on Friday wrote Minaj an open letter urging her to withdraw from the festival, calling on her to “refuse the regime’s money” and use her global influence to demand the release of jailed Saudi women activists.
Amnesty International have described the Saudi human rights record as “abysmal,” adding that the nation is in the “grip of a sweeping crackdown against critics of the government.”
The festival in Saudi Arabia, which forbids alcohol and has a strict social code, comes as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pursues a sweeping liberalization drive that has led to new cinemas, concerts and sporting extravaganzas.
The reform is seen by some as an attempt to blunt public frustration over an economic downturn and high youth unemployment.
Saudi Arabia is also moving to boost domestic spending on entertainment and tourism, as the kingdom has reeled from low oil prices.
While Saudi Arabia is yet to offer tourist visas, the country has fast-tracked electronic permits for international visitors to attend such festivals to further boost revenue.
The United States and South Korea kicked off a low-key joint military drill Sunday as a diplomatic thaw over North Korea gathered pace.
Tension on the flashpoint peninsula have showed signs of easing in recent months after the isolated, nuclear-armed North proposed summits with the South and their “imperialist enemy” the US.
The annual Foal Eagle drill — a series of field training exercises involving some 11,500 American and 290,000 South Korean troops — began early Sunday, Seoul’s defense ministry spokesman said.
The drill — which was delayed to avoid clashing with February’s Winter Olympics in the South — will be held for a month in April, about half the time it usually lasts.
This year’s drills feature fewer strategic weapons like a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Seoul army said earlier. The deployment of such powerful weapons at past drills has frequently drawn an angry response from the North.
The two allies are also set to stage the annual Key Resolve drill — a tabletop exercise using mainly computer-based simulations — for the usual duration of two weeks beginning late April.
Pyongyang, which habitually slams the joint army drills between the South and the US as a rehearsal for invasion, has remained relatively quiet on the issue in recent weeks.
The Foal Eagle drill started the same day as a historic concert by South Korean pop stars in Pyongyang, which will be staged late Sunday as a peace gesture ahead of this month’s inter-Korea summit.
Eleven South Korean acts — including popular K-pop girlband Red Velvet — are set perform in the NorthKorean capital — the first such concert for more than a decade.
The flurry of reconciliatory moves comes after the Pyeongchang Winter Games, which the North used to mount a charm offensive, sending athletes, cheerleaders and even leader Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister as a delegate.
Kim, who last week met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on his first overseas trip as leader, also met Olympics chief Thomas Bach in Pyongyang on Saturday, thanking him for helping to bring about a “dramatic thawing” of tensions on the peninsula.
Kim is set to hold a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on April 27 at the border truce village of Panmunjom — the third time ever that any leaders of the two rivals have met.
Rock giants U2 and pop star Ed Sheeran have called off concerts in St Louis, as the US city braced Sunday for a second day of protests over the acquittal of a former police officer in the shooting death of a black man.
The Irish rock band and entertainment firm Live Nation announced the Saturday show’s cancellation in a statement citing concerns about fans’ security.
“We have been informed by the St Louis Police Department that they are not in a position to provide the standard protection for our audience as would be expected for an event of this size,” they said.
“We cannot in good conscience risk our fans’ safety by proceeding with tonight’s concert. As much as we regret having to cancel, we feel it is the only acceptable course of action in the current environment.”
And Briton Sheeran announced he was pulling the plug on his show, set for a different St Louis venue Sunday, amid the protests.
A judge in the Missouri city Friday found a white former police officer, Jason Stockley, not guilty of murdering Anthony Lamar Smith, a suspected drug dealer, following a high-speed chase in 2011.
The case has drawn a lot of attention in St Louis, where racial tensions have been high since the 2014 killing of a black man in the city’s suburb of Ferguson by a white police officer.
Hundreds of people turned out for initially peaceful protests after the verdict, but the situation turned violent Friday night, leading police to break up the crowd with tear gas.
Ten officers were injured in the standoff with rock-throwing protesters, according to St. Louis police who made at least 23 arrests.
On Saturday, protesters gathered at a park and then marched through two St Louis shopping malls, chanting “the whole damn system is guilty as hell.”
“I can feel for and I understand what the family is going through, and I know everyone wants someone to blame, but I’m just not the guy,” Stockley told the St Louis Post-Dispatch.
Stockley, 36, shot Smith, 24, five times December 20, 2011 after a car chase that followed a suspected drug deal.
He was caught on an in-car camera video telling his partner, Brian Bianchi, “Going to kill this (expletive) don’t you know it.
Prosecutors brought first degree murder charges in 2016, alleging that Stockley’s comments to his partner showed premeditation and alleging he planted a gun in Smith’s car after the shooting.
On Friday, Judge Timothy Wilson acquitted Stockley, concluding there was no evidence he had planted the gun and that his video-taped comment lacked context because the portions before and after were inaudible.
Lady Gaga said Thursday she had beenhospitalised in “severe pain” and was pulling out of Brazil’s Rock in Rio festival, which she was due to headline this weekend.
The US superstar, who revealed Tuesday that she suffers from the chronic disease fibromyalgia, had been due to open the festival on Friday in Rio de Janeiro.
“I was taken to hospital it’s not simply hip pain or wear & tear from tour, I’m in severe pain. I’m in good hands w/ the very best doctors,” she tweeted.
“Brazil, I’m devastated that I’m not well enough 2 come to Rock in Rio. I would do anything 4 u but I have to take care of my body right now,” she tweeted.
A statement from Rock in Rio, which is to be staged in the barely used Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, said Lady Gaga “is undergoing treatment by medical specialists.”
“Rock in Rio regrets to announce the cancellation of her show,” the statement said.
The singer of hits like “Million Reasons” and “Perfect Illusion” had been due in Rio as part of her Joanne World Tour, which ends in December.
Gaga had already announced that due to her disease, which causes pain and fatigue, she was planning a break after the tour. In September she also abruptly canceled a concert in Montreal.
Running for seven days in all — Friday through Sunday and then September 21 to 24 — Rock in Rio is being welcomed by the city as a chance to put the huge facilities built for the 2016 Olympic Games back in use. They have hosted only sporadic events since the Olympics ended in August of that year.
Joining the lineup are rock concert stalwarts including Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses and The Who, as well as the more alternative bands Incubus and The Kills.
Brazilian music lovers will be treated to the likes of legendary diva Elza Soares and rapper Rael. Adding to the star power will be supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who plans to use the occasion to campaign against the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
While Brazil is only starting to emerge from a painful recession, the 700,000 tickets to the event sold out months ago and city hotels are hoping to be nearly full, reversing a prolonged post-Olympic slump.
Following the successful release of the music video for his latest single, ‘Alagbawi’, musicologist and gospel music singer, Precious Sam, hosted an album release concert in Lagos, for the new album titled ‘The Future’.
Giving insight on the title of the album, he explained that “the future is bright” although many seem to have given up on Nigeria.
He said it is a reminder that other developed countries have had their fair share of hardship however, they overcame.
In the case of Nigeria, he says everyone ought to be in unity as the nation is only passing through a phase.
He also hinted that some tracks on the album give insight as to where the problems lay, rather than the popular idea that it’s the fault of the government.
The gospel artist says his academic background in music gives him an edge and the opportunity to create something unique which he called a fusion of afro-beat and high-life.
He considers his music to fully message-based as opposed to the dance concept of regular music.
Business With God
Another gospel singer and music partner, Monique expressed joy over the album launch, saying that she feels blessed to win souls for God through the ministrations.
“Doing business with God is always profitable we are winning souls and getting blessed.
“Even if other artists are killing it, we are winning it. we are not setting our standards by whatever they are winning,” she said.
The Afro-pop star and co-Founder of Triple MG, Iyanya, recently thrilled his London fans as he headlined a Coko Bar anniversary concert.
With his trademark waist wiggles melting the hearts of many fans, the star performer was no holds barred in dishing out to the ladies as the men cheered him on for representing. Iyanya dished out hit after hit as excited fans danced and sang along.
Other performers at the concert included Chidinma, Ice Prince, Awilo Logomba and Emma Nyra.