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Top Russian rappers unite for protest gig over star's jailing

News Desk

Agence France-Presse

Moscow, Russia  /  Wed, November 28, 2018  /  03:02 am
Top Russian rappers unite for protest gig over star's jailing

Rapper Oxxxymiron performs during a concert in support of rapper Husky, whose real name is Dmitry Kuznetsov, at a Moscow club on November 26, 2018. (AFP/Maxim Zmeyev)

Three of Russia's top rappers on Monday gave a concert protesting against the jailing of a fellow star and calling for an end to intimidation by authorities and curbs on their artistic freedom. 

The packed concert in a Moscow club was organised by rapper Oxxxymiron, who told the audience that the sold-out gig was about "freedom of creativity".

The concert expressed solidarity and raised funds for rapper Husky, who last week was was sentenced to 12 days in jail over a performance on the street in southern Russia. 

His case has prompted rappers to sound the alarm over a clampdown on their artistic freedom, including frequent concert cancellations under pressure from the authorities and conservative groups.

In a surprise ruling, Husky, whose real name is Dmitry Kuznetsov, was released hours before the concert after his lawyers asked for his sentence to be reduced.

Oxxymiron told the audience that the concert highlighted "the situation with music in our country, which is currently not moving in the best direction, to put it mildly."

The 33-year-old rapper, whose real name is Miron Fyodorov, studied at the University of Oxford and is known for his participation in "rap battles" with other stars.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny went to the concert with his family, posing for selfies with supporters.

Most attending were in their teens and early 20s and expressed fears the authorities are targeting the rap artists they listen to.

"We support this because in Russia there's bloody censorship," said 21-year-old student Ivan Lotman.  

Read also: Straight outta Bangkok: Thai rappers lay into junta, social conformity

"They are starting to tighten the screws and trying to scare certain artists, like Husky," said Denis Zabuzov, also a 21-year-old student, 

"He was jailed for nothing."

Oxxxymiron performed with Basta, a rapper and radio host from southern Russia and Noize MC, who has mocked police corruption and brutality.

The concert was titled "I will sing my music," a lyric that Husky performed from a car roof after the venue where he was due to perform cancelled at the last minute.

Husky said several of his concerts have been cancelled in recent months, after law enforcement agencies put pressure on organizers. 

"They've found in my songs insults to the feelings of believers, propaganda of Nazism and sexual perversion," he wrote on social media, rejecting the claims.

Husky, 25, was born in eastern Siberia. One of his first songs, written when he was still at school, was critical of President Vladimir Putin.

He has also appeared in a play directed by Kirill Serebrennikov, currently on trial on fraud charges that supporters say are part of a crackdown on artistic freedom.

However he is not a straightforward opposition figure, having also expressed sympathy for Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.