x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Akon strip in Dubai sparks apology

Dubai concert organisers say R&B star thought he was only doing what footballers do and has apologised to all concerned.

Akon performs at the Palladium in Dubai Media City on Thursday.
Akon performs at the Palladium in Dubai Media City on Thursday.

DUBAI // The R&B singer Akon "did not mean to cause offence" by removing his T-shirt in front of the audience at his weekend concert, organisers said. At the end of his show at the Palladium in Media City on Thursday night, the Senegalese-American performer threw his white T-shirt into the crowd only to be followed by a series of failed attempts by security to cover him up. This is despite his signing an agreement promising to abide by a moral code of conduct for performers issued by the Dubai Government well before arriving in the country. Abdul Razzak, chief executive of Music Plus, which organised the event, said since Akon came straight to the venue from the airport, he was perhaps not as fully briefed as he should have been. "He did not do this to cause any offence and apologised to us all afterwards," Mr Razzak said. "He thought that throwing a T-shirt into the crowd was just the same as what footballers do after a match as it was during his last song. As a courtesy, he came back to sing another song wearing a T-shirt." Security guards tried giving the Grammy-award-winning singer two T-shirts and even a towel to cover himself up during his finale of Right Now, only to have him throw them into the crowd and continue singing. The star's DJ, who opened the 70-minute set, joined Akon in removing his shirt and waistcoat before jumping on top of the decks in just a kilt and running shoes. Many of the 4,000-strong audience appeared to be between the ages of 16 and 21 - 16 being the minimum age for entry. Akon, who was in Dubai for less than 24 hours as part of his world tour, was given strict guidelines, which included not allowing any female dancers to wear revealing clothing, not performing sexual dance moves on stage and not removing his own clothing. The behaviour follows strict warnings given to the singer from Centre Stage Management in April last year, when he gave his debut UAE performance in front of 18,000 fans at Dubai Festival City. Mr Razzak said there was no time for the artist to have the usual pre-show briefing, which would normally take place between the original document being signed and appearing on stage. Fans did not seem perturbed by the spontaneous strip. by the star. Ahmed al Jabri, 19, who brought his younger sister, Laila, 17, said: "It was a great concert. We waited a long time for him to come on and had been looking forward to it for a while. I don't think it's cool for him to take his clothes off if it means he's breaking the rules here, but we all see movies where there is much worse like swearing and violence." Laura Hamilton, 21, said: "It was hilarious to see the commotion of the security guards trying to cover him up. He was clearly having a great time on stage and was enjoying the performance." Akon, who has sold more than seven million records worldwide, has caused controversy in other countries; in Trinidad in 2007 he danced on stage with a teenage daughter of a clergyman. In New York he was convicted after throwing a teenage fan from the stage in 2007 and was ordered to pay a US$250 (Dh900) fine and do 65 days of community service. Born Aliuane Badara Thiam, Akon moved from Africa to the US state of New Jersey at the age of seven. He was expelled from school for selling weapons. At 18, he was jailed for 18 months for his involvement in a car-theft ring. As for controversial lyrics in some of his songs, the singer once said: "Personally, I would have no problem getting rid of bad language on any record for anybody. I think we are talented enough to write lyrics for songs without using that type of language. I think it's a good thing for the positivity of hip-hop in general. "And at the same time, I look at it, like, words in general, stuff like that, words are only what you make it. "At the end of the day, it's just a word - it wouldn't mean anything if we didn't react on it, so it's more of a mind state, people just have to be willing to change." Akon - whose name is a play on the words "a con", slang for "a convict" - is a Muslim and grew up with Sunni parents in Senegal. mswan@thenational.ae