A performance by rap artist ‘Black M’ which was to make part of the commemorations of the Battle of Verdun, one of the largest and deadliest battles of the Great War, has been cancelled after anger over the questionable content of his songs.
Booked for the evening of May 29th, the performance of rapper Black Mesrimes — real name Alpha Diallo — was to be part of a day of commemorations for the battle of Verdun, in which nearly 300,000 men died.
Attending the events are French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but there was concern the performance of the Guinean-origin rapper would be an “insult” to commemorations, reports Le Figaro. While the choice may seem surprising, the musician for the free evening concert was reportedly selected as a ‘people’s artist’.
Singing with French rap band Sexion d’Assaut, Big M performed songs including ‘Sorry’ (Désolé), in which he calls France a nation of “Kouffars”, an Arabic derogatory term referring to “unbelievers”, “disbelievers”, or “infidels”. In ‘It Humbled’ (On t’a humilié), Black M sang: “I think it’s high time the fags died. Cut off their penises”.
Yet another song glorifies school shootings, with the lyrics: “…get a Smith and Wesson… a small voice whispered to me go ahead, shoot the school.”
While the mayor of Verdun defended the choice, strongly worded protests were launched by France’s Front National (FN), the populist anti-mass migration party presently enjoying strong poll ratings. Party leader Marine Le Pen called giving the rapper a spot at the Verdun celebrations “extremely offensive against the French”, while party deputy Florian Philippot compared it to spitting on a war memorial.
Le Pen’s niece, Front National senator and rising star of the European right Marion Marechal-Le Pen also weighed in on the controversy, remarking that the term ‘Kuffar’ frequently occurs in Islamic State propaganda about the West. She said: “It is inconceivable that an ‘artist’ who insults France as violently as this could participate in any official event to commemorate our history, or a national tribute to our veterans,” reports Le Monde.
The final blow for the concert came on Thursday when the French state commission for centennial commemorations decided they would not be providing their share of the €150,000 budget for the concert, denying a grant for €67,000. The following day, the city announced the concert had been cancelled, with the mayor blaming “hate” and “racism”, and that he anticipated right wing violence if it went ahead.
Black M himself said he was “saddened” by the concert being cancelled and that he hoped he could “raise a banner” against the hate speech he felt he had been a victim of.
The battle of Verdun raged for 303 days in 1916 from the 21st of Feburary to the 20th of December, during which time two and a half million men from the French and German armies fought near the medieval city of Verdun. Taking place at the same time as the Battle of the Somme, the battle was characterised by intense artillery bombardments, and three quarters of a million men were made casualties, of which ultimately nearly 300,000 died.
In all human history, Verdun is remembered as being one of the longest and most costliest battles ever, earning it the nickname the “meat grinder”.
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