When Erykah Badu sung for African dictator and human rights violator, King Mswati III, she joined a long list of famous singers who apparently have no qualms about performing for tyrants as long as the price is right.
Erykah Badu preformed for Africa’s last absolute monarch, King Mswati III of Swaziland on his 46th birthday. Yet this wasn’t no Marilyn Monroe and JFK moment. Mswati already has 15 wives, so it’s doubtful if he’d have time for Erykah Badu.
Erykah Badu dedicated her first song to the, ‘sons of Kings’ and Badu went on to sing her heart out for a multi-millionaire who rules over a country which according to the United Nations is rife with allegations of torture and other abuses of human rights.
Erykah Badu may not have known this beforehand, or indeed Badu may not have realized how Mswati’s opulent and extravagant lifestyle is in direct contrast to 63 percent of the population of Swaziland who exist on less than $1.25 a day.
Erykah Badu may also have not realized that in Mswati’s kingdom all political parties are banned, and that it is illegal to make any criticism whatsoever of the King.
Erykah Badu may also have been ignorant of Mswati’s fondness for throwing journalists and human rights activists in prison.
Erykah Badu may also have been unaware that the sponsor of her show for King Mswati, Indian mining giant Salgaocar, has also been accused of water pollution, corruption, and grotesque environmental damage.
Yet whatever Erykah Badu was ignorant of before the show, she knows now, due to the uproar that Badu’s performance has created in its aftermath.
So how did Erykah Badu respond to criticisms of what could be considered a mistake born of ignorance?
Badu simply took to Twitter and labeled an Africanist at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights a “monkey” and others who dared criticize her “idiots.”
Erykah Badu didn’t stop there though. She tweeted that she’d even play in North Korea ‘for the people’.
When offered an opportunity by TIME magazine to clarify her position, the publication said of Erykah Badu: “Instead of saying a kind word in solidarity with Swaziland’s political prisoners, Erykah Badu dug in deeper, and argued that the Swazi regime is an important part of African culture and that criticism of the king and his ancient custom is tantamount to racism.”
Which is quite ironic of Erykah Badu, considering the Swazi monarchy is in fact a British colonial creation.
Beyonce, Nelly Furtado, 50 Cent, Usher, and Mariah Carey have all played for up to $2 million each at parties organized by family members of the late Libyan dictator Gaddafi. Unlike Erykah Badu, In the PR firestorm that followed they all apologized.
Mariah Carey even said: “I was naïve and unaware of who I was booked to perform for. I feel horrible and embarrassed to have participated in this mess. Going forward, this is a lesson for all artists to learn from.”
It seems that Erykah Badu is a poor pupil. Badu is scheduled to perform at a concert this May sponsored by The Gambia’a dictator Yahya Jammeh. Yahya is a nice little fellow who has already murdered and executed hundreds of his critics and enjoys promising to inflict ‘the ultimate penalty’ on homosexuals.
Yet although Erykah Badu may be guilty of prostituting her talent to the highest bidder. Badu’s biggest crime is best summed up Jeffery Smith, an advocacy officer at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.
In an e-mail to The Washington Post, Smith said of Erykah Badu: “It is highly unfortunate that someone of Erykah Badu’s international stature would use her star power for inherently reprehensible reasons – namely, to provide legitimacy, and, in a sense, endorse a brutal dictator who both manages and directs every facet of Africa’s last absolute monarchy.”
The question remains. Will Erykah Badu now change her tune?