Salif Keita: I canceled Israel show due to threats and intimidation

The management and agent for Afropop superstar Salif Keita canceled his appearance at the Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival.

SALIF KEITA 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The management and agent for Afropop superstar Salif Keita canceled his appearance at the Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival last week due to threats made by the pro-Palestinian BDS movement to ruin his reputation.
Keita’s non-profit organization, The Salif Keita Global Foundation, published a statement on his Facebook page over the weekend addressed to “Sacred Music Festival, Hadassah Hospital, Salif Keita fans,” that outlined the campaign against his show, that had been slated for last Friday in the capitol.
The performer’s representatives “were bombarded with hundreds of threats, blackmail attempts, intimidation, social media harassment and slander stating that Mr. Keita was to perform in Israel, ‘not for peace, but for apartheid,’” the post stated.
“These threats were made by a group named BDS, who also threatened to keep increasing an anti-Salif Keita campaign, which they had already started on social media, and to work diligently at ruining the reputation and career that Mr. Keita has worked 40 years to achieve not only professionally, but for human rights and albinism.”
Keita, known as the “Golden Voice of Africa,” has released 20 albums in a career spanning four decades.
The albino performer was slated to appear with Ron Shama in a show called “A Celebratory Trans-Contentinental Groove.” Keita was also slated to visit the albinism center at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center.
But on Thursday, the organizers of the three-day festival received word of Keita’s cancellation.
The Facebook post said that the decision to cancel the show derived from the management’s concern “to protect the artist from being harmed personally and professionally.”
“Although we love Israel and all his fans here, and the fantastic spirit of unity of the Sacred Music Festival, as well as the important work your hospital is doing for albinism, we did not agree with the scare tactics and bullying used by BDS; therefore management decided to act cautiously when faced with an extremist group, as we believe BDS to be.”
“It is unfortunate that artists like him are threatened by this group who falsely claim to defend human rights, when they should take their concerns to governments or ask for support of their cause in a lawful way, and not by endangering the freedom of expression of artists, or using harassment and intimidation of artists who play for peace and for all people, in order to bring some kind of justice to the Palestinians they claim to represent,” the Facebook message continued.
The South Africa chapter of the global BDS campaign denied the allegations that Keita was bullied into canceling his visit to Israel.
“We would like to clarify to the world that we did not intimidate the musician into canceling his performance in Israel as has been suggested in the media by the musician’s manager,” Professor Farid Esack, chairperson of BDS South Africa and former antiapartheid activist, told the Anadolu Agency on Friday.
Earlier this month, famed British rocker Eric Burdon also cited threats and intimidation as the reason for the cancellation of his Israel performance with The Animals. But Burdon had a last-minute change of heart and arrived for the concert. Last week, former Pink Floyd leader Roger Waters in an open letter called for a full artistic boycott of Israel.
Despite Keita’s cancellation, the artist continued his program to donate several hundred UV-protected sunglasses, UV-protected clothing, swim gear and hats to Hadassah for patients with albinism.
“We hope that you will receive this donation with the love it was intended to bring to the patients, as we determine a future time to be able to perform in Israel, and visit your important center for albinism and skin cancer treatment,” the Facebook post concluded.