Akon’s Supafest show in Malé has been postponed two days before the concert was to take place, due to “technical and security concerns of the artist” according to the show’s Sri Lankan event managers Platinum Entertainment.
Platinum Entertainment said most of the equipment needed for the show, such as the stage, LED panels, and technical staff will not be able to make it to Malé in time for the scheduled concert. But they offered assurances that since “some equipment worth more than $100,000 has arrived to the Maldives,” it is “straight proof that the event is scheduled to go on.”
The show’s delay comes shortly after Maldives police arrested the Sri Lankan organiser of the Boney M concert for fraud, and the government decided to take over running running the show itself.
Akon’s concert has been controversial from the start. Platinum Entertainment first tried to send the star to Sri Lanka, but the government refused him entry into the country because the content of one of his videos was deemed offensive to Buddhist tastes.
He was also initially denied a visa to Australia and missed a performance in Adelaide, but was allowed into the country in time for the Melbourne concert.
When Akon was denied entry to Sri Lanka, Platinum Entertainment received permission from the Maldivian government to host the concert in Male’ and joined forces with local event organisers, Highrise Entertainment, to run the event on 23 April.
Everything was set up for the show to proceed – posters, tickets, government approval and many eager fans billed it as “the biggest concert ever in the Maldives.”
However since the show was announced, there have been complaints from the public and the Islamic Ministry concerning Akon’s lyrics, and especially his performance last year where he simulated sex on stage with a young girl during a show in the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago.
Ali Furushan from Highrise Entertainment said they had difficulty bringing in the equipment, which was being shipped from Sri Lanka, Singapore and Australia. He added that because “it’s the first international event, we didn’t want to do a half-job of it,” so they decided to reschedule the show instead.
He said there were also security concerns from Akon’s management, who were worried about the barricade system.
“The barricades at the show are not interlocking ones,” he said.
Furushan said there had been no concerns regarding the complaints from the Islamic Ministry, saying it was “mostly the technical part” that had forced the organisers to postpone the concert.
Platinum Entertainment will be refunding tickets starting from 12:00pm on 22 April through a hotline (330 7898) and at the Highrise office. They are also refunding money to the show sponsors, “even though they have fully agreed to stick with the event.”
Furushan said they are returning the money to the sponsors because they don’t have a confirmed date yet for the concert, but when they confirm the date, they will start all over again.
“Then we have to re-do all the print material and bring all the equipment back,” he said, noting they had already spent US$2,500 on printing materials alone.
“It’s a big financial loss for the company,” he said, adding that insurance would not cover their losses.
Platinum Entertainment has said because the concert is a multi-national show, “rescheduling will take a minimum duration of six weeks” and they will announce the new date when it has been set.
Furushan confirmed it will take a minimum of six weeks for Akon’s schedule to clear up again. “He’s pretty booked up,” he said, noting he has upcoming concerts in Congo, New York and Los Angeles.
“We hope to have the concert just before the FIFA World Cup,” he said.
Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said the main issues were security concerns from Akon’s management.
He said Akon’s management had “requested the government to assure them of security arrangements from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).”
Zuhair said the concerns for security arose “after certain Islamic scholars and State Minister [for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Ahmed Shaheem Ali Saeed] complained about Akon’s explicit lyrics.”
However he assured “the government will stand firm. The permits have been issued, the president is delighted and has expressed hope that everyone who goes to see Akon has a good time.”
Zuhair added it was a good opportunity for the Maldivian companies sponsoring the event, and it would “hopefully encourage other international stars to come to the Maldives.”
Many young people who Minivan News spoke to claimed they had bought tickets ““not because we like Akon, but to support the event so more artists will come to the Maldives,” one concert-goer said.
Hearing of the show’s postponement, he said: “I am very angry. It’s music! It’s supposed to be everywhere. It can’t be stopped just because someone doesn’t like it.”
He said he would definitely get a refund if Akon can’t come, but will hold on to his tickets for a while.
Akon has meanwhile made a video apologising to all his Maldivian fans for the postponement. It can be seen on the event’s Facebook page.