Home Music Sting Smartly Skips Kazakh Concert Staged by Unpopular Ruler

Rock stars rarely cancel appearances based on political situations. But Sting, an avid supporter of Amnesty International, bowed out of a concert in Astana, Kazakhstan this weekend when he learned that employees of a state owned oil company were on strike. The situation was even worse than that. It turns out that the annual Astana Day–sort of Kazakh Independence Day–was moved to line up with the birthday of the country’s president, Nursultan Nazarbaev.

A promoter had booked in Sting’s “Symphonicities” classical pop concert–currently on tour in Russia–without realizing that Nazarbaev would use Sting’s appearance as an endorsement for himself. Luckily, the former leader of the Police figured it out in time and pulled the plug. At issue now is the situation with the oil workers, repression of their union, and other accusations made by Amnesty.

“Hunger strikes, imprisoned workers and tens of thousands on strike represents a virtual picket line which I have no intention of crossing,” Sting commented. “The Kazakh gas and oil workers and their families need our support and the spotlight of the international media on their situation in the hope of bringing about positive change.”

But that’s not all–it turns out that Kazakhstan, so brilliantly lampooned by Sacha Baron Cohen in “Borat,” is rife with issues. In 2008, Nazarbaev’s former son-in-law, a high government official, published a book about the president called “The Godfather in Law.” Since then, Rakhat Aliev has been on the run for his life–hiding in Austria and Malta. He’s been tried for murders he probably didn’t commit and convicted in absentia.

And a funny thing about Astana Day itself–Aliev wrote in his book that Nazarbaev had moved the capital to Astana to protect himself. Read this 2008 story from Radio Free Europe. Sting was smart to cancel Kazakhstan. Other rockers should do the same. http://www.rferl.org/content/Nazarbaev_Celebrates_Day_Of_Astana/1181848.html

also www.sting.com

Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. He wrote the Intelligencer column for NY Magazine in the mid 90s, reporting on the OJ Simpson trial, as well as for the real Parade magazine (when it was owned by Conde Nast), and has written for the New York Observer, Details, Vogue, Spin, the New York Times, NY Post, Washington Post, and NY Daily News among many publications. He is the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
2 replies to this post
  1. Considering the conflict around the Uzbek festival 2 years ago it was smart. The promoter was Life Nation and the difference to 2 years ago was that Sting and band were invited to a private concert in Uzbekistan with a questionable reputation that even involved the British embassy. With more information at hand it would have been possible to exit that as well with grace like they did now. The Sting camp has learned…….better late than never!

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