Yesterday, I wrote about something which has started bubbling up over the last few days – the lineup of the MDL Beast Soundstorm festival in Saudi Arabia next month. I posed the question of whether any of these DJs care about anything but money – and on this Monday morning, I return to the subject.
Today, I’m going to go into some more detail about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and I shall be mentioning specific DJs for this purpose. This blog makes no apology for doing so – a few DJs being made to feel uncomfortable is of little significance compared to aforementioned DJs, from a scene founded on love and respect for all, taking money from a country which shows none to those to whom it disapproves.
For starters, one DJ on this list is gay – his name will remain confidential. He is receiving $40,000 for his appearance in a country where same-sex intercourse is illegal and same-sex relationships are not recognised in law. Given his personal circumstances and dance music’s history, isn’t this a very dubious decision?
Questions must also be asked of Nicole Moudaber – who is more open about her sexuality. She left Lebanon due to police persecution at her parties, largely attended by the gay community. At the time, Lebanon was under Syrian control and they strongly disapproved of homosexuality. So what the hell is she now doing associating with a regime where being gay can potentially get you killed?
As for Grooverider, he might want to be careful what he packs in his bag. In 2007, the DJ – real name Raymond Bingham – was arrested in Dubai for being in possession of 2 grams of cannabis. He was sent to prison for 4 years in February 2008, but pardoned and released just over six months later. In an interview, he claimed to have “forgotten the spliff. It was a small amount. Back home I would not even get prosecuted.”.
Saudi Arabia are similarly strict when it comes to the use of illegal drugs – there are a few other DJs on this list which could therefore encounter this problem. And if they wish to drink alcohol on their flights over, forget it. The country has a strict ban on alcohol – and if customs suspect you’ve been drinking when you arrive in the country, you could face being arrested.
Their riders could make for interesting reading, if the authorities were to come across them – not entirely inconceivable in a state like Saudi Arabia. For example, items like pornographic magazines, which one seedy high-profile DJ seems to have on his rider, are strictly banned.
After self-declared baron of techno Dave Clarke posted about this event last week, his followers expressed particular disappointment about Jeff Mills agreeing to go. Mills himself responded with this defiant comment…
His defence appears to be that someone in that audience could be inspired to bring about social change after listening to the likes of himself, David Guetta or Carl Cox playing music. Anyone trying to bring about change in Saudi Arabia tends to get tortured, if not killed. The delusion of Jeff Mills is well and truly off the scale.
And finally – for now, anyway – let’s consider Carl Cox. This is a man who believes in freedom of expression and responds graciously to criticism. It’s a shame Saudi Arabia doesn’t. In 2018, a journalist called Jamal Khashoggi was lured to a consulate building on false pretences where he was murdered and subsequently dismembered. Investigators later found out many in the team sent to kill him had links to Mohammed bin Salman – the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
With the exception of Mills, every single DJ in this list is currently staying silent over the controversy. And one other question remains – did anyone who got the invite to go to this Saudi Arabian propaganda gig have the courage to turn it down?
It turns out at least one did. Frankie Bones, a house and techno DJ from dance’s earliest days, revealed he was offered $10,000 to do it – admitting he could “use the cash”, but that “my own sanity is more important”. Nice to know that at least one DJ in the upper echelons has some principles…