So the disgraceful day is finally here. The DJs and other acts are getting ready to do their sets at the MDL Beast Soundstorm festival in Saudi Arabia. At the time of publishing, many of them will now have their feet up in cosy 5-star hotels in the city, enjoying the very best of what hospitality in Riyadh has to offer.
Sounds like something you’d hear being narrated on a TV show about holidays. But rest assured they’ll be kept a world away from the many human rights abuses which take place in the country. Imagine North Korea’s infamous Yanggakdo Hotel – the one with the fifth floor that apparently doesn’t exist – but more luxurious, and you’ve got the right kind of idea.
These DJs are being paid top dollar for their presence, and the Saudi Arabian regime isn’t going to want something like consciences getting in the way. Hence why the only DJ to have referenced the controversy in any way at all was Jeff Mills – whose twice-botched defence of his presence at the festival has managed only to irritate his own fans even further.
The sordid propaganda festival – partly funded by the Saudi Arabian government, although no one knows by exactly how much – looks set to start today. And this is something which has not gone unnoticed by Human Rights Watch. Writing under the pseudonym of Arwa Youssef, their staff member said “Global music superstars slated to perform at the upcoming MDL Beast Soundstorm festival in Saudi Arabia should speak up for human rights or else not participate.”
They cuttingly describe the festival as “yet another one of Saudi Arabia’s reputational laundering schemes” and disclose that “whilst the Saudi Public Investment Fund [is doubling] down on these efforts to bring bigger and better events to the country, the government has intensified a crackdown on peaceful dissent”.
So what’s the reason these DJs are staying silent? Curiously enough, Amateur’s House was contacted earlier this week by a manager for one of the DJs on the lineup – and agreed to be quoted so long as he could remain anonymous. He said, quite simply, that “For [name of DJ redacted], it’s simple. It’s about money. Nothing else. The DJ I represent is financially f***ed. He’s in debt, I haven’t been paid in two months and he’s in deep s***. This gets him out of the s*** with change to spare. He knows about the human rights stuff, but feels he has no choice”.
Financial desperation after two years of being able to earn next to nothing appears to be the motivation for one DJ – and my investigations into this subject lead me to strongly suspect it’s the same for a few other DJs on the lineup. But has none of these DJs questioned whether the payout in this case is worth the payoff – or do they simply not care?
And that remains the question as they get ready for Saudi money to fatten up their bank accounts just in time for Christmas…