Notable Musicians who performed for Dictators and got a lot of money for it

And exactly how much they got for turning a blind eye.

There is a rich, illustrious history of Musicians performing for Dictators of corrupt and repressive regimes. It involves your favourite singers and it stretches all the way back to James Brown performing for Zairian Dictator Mobutu Sese Suku back in 1974.

I know that there are probably examples of We Are Scientists performing for Tony Blair’s kids for £500 but that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to chat about the big timers and the many millions they accept to perform for the most corrupt dictators of the world.

The fee for privately hiring an A-List Musician is generally at least $1 million. Which isn’t that much when you’ve got $300 million in the bank. So why do it?

If they’re not that bothered about taking blood money, then surely they’re aware of the damage it will do to their reputation when people find out? 

Do they do this because they like the feeling of being adored by Presidents and Prime Ministers? Do they do it because they like knowing that they have fans wherever corner of the world they go to? 

Anyway, here’s a list of the more notable musicians who have willfully turned a blind eye to the checkered human rights records of World Leaders they’ve performed for:

Kanye West for Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan


Payment: $3 million

Personal Wealth: $145 million

Fun fact: No one even bothered watching


Kanye got $3 million for performing at the President’s grandson’s wedding in 2013 which is the most anyone has ever received for a private gig. But, it still wasn’t enough to pay for Kim Kardashian’s engagement ring so let’s hope she’s not one of those who’s into renewing their vowels.

Jennifer Lopez for Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, Turkmenistan

Payment: $1 million

Her personal wealth: $360 million

Fun Fact: When Lopez and her crew got there, her choreographer, JR Taylor tweeted out “I wonder where all my Turkmenistan followers are?! Hit me Up”. Social Media, among many, many other things, is illegal in Turkmenistan.

It’s probably not worth watching the whole 15 minutes of the video so I’ll just tell you, this is weird. On the wide shots, you can tell that there are maximum 100 people in attendance. Also, this is a fact: Lopez’s rendition of “Happy Birthday Mr President”  was the 2nd most uncomfortable rendition ever witnessed. First was of course when 9-month pregnant Skyler sung it for her boss in Breaking Bad.

Sting for Islam “Shortest Name in the Former Soviet Stans” Karimov, Uzbekistan


Payment: $2 million

Personal worth: $300 million

Fun Fact: Tickets for the “open concert” cost 45 times the average Uzbek monthly salary.

This one is particularly surprising as Sting is a far-left eco-warrior humanitarian who often speaks out against various atrocities. In an interview, Sting claimed that Unicef organised the gig for the Uzbek President who is known for boiling his political enemies alive. In reply, Unicef were like: “Nope”.

Beyonce/Mariah Carey/Usher/Nelly Furtado/Lionel Richie/Everyone for Muammar el-Qaddafi, Libya


Payment: $1million-1.5 million

Personal Wealth: $350 million/$520 million/$180 million/$35 million/$200 million

Fun fact: Not one person in the world knows for definite if it’s spelt Gaddafi or Qaddafi.

Gaddafi/Qaddafi was an internationally condemned as a dictator whose authoritarian administration violated human rights and financed global terrorism but Good Christ he had a heck of a taste in music. Also, Mariah Carey only had to do four songs for her $1 million!

Nicki Minaj for Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Angola

Payment: $2 million

Personal wealth: $70 million

Fun fact: Minaj has a tattoo on her left arm which says “God is With Me Always in Chinese”. She asked the tattooist if he could do it in Chinese but he misunderstood the request.

Rather unfairly, the media assumed that Nicki Minaj knew nothing about the repressive, murderous regime of Angola. The Human Rights Foundation wrote an open letter that let her know: “Dos Santos has made it his policy to harass, imprison, or kill politicians, journalists, and activists who protest his rule”. Minaj ignored all that and just posted that picture of her draped in an Angolan flag.

Michael Jackson for Prince Abdullah Hamad al-Khalifa, Bahrain


Payment: $2.4 million

Personal Wealth at the time: $500 million

Fun fact: Michael Jackson is originally from Egypt and was born in 1254 B.C.


The Michael Jackson-Bahrain thing is just bloody weird. Jackson didn’t just sing for the Prince, he somehow managed to get him to foot $2.2 million of his child molestation legal costs. Part of the deal was that Jackson would record two albums with the Bahraini royal who is known for clamping down on protests with live ammo.

Unfortunately, their friendship soured when the Prince sued Jackson for $7 million when he failed to deliver on his promise to record those albums with him.

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