“Mr. President, are you ready to rock?” exclaimed Senegalese hip-hop star Youssou N' Dour as Georgia’s Mikheil Saakashvili arrived at a May 26 concert that was designed to raise awareness about the plight of Georgia’s 350,000 Internally Displaced Persons.
The answer was never in doubt.
Under the banner “Music Breaks Walls!,” N' Dour, fellow francophone hip-hop star MC Solaar, hip-hop DJ Maïa-K, rap artist Youssoupha, Afro-soul artist Grace, and English actress-singer Jane Birkin appeared in the western city of Zugdidi, not far from the breakaway region of Abkhazia, to deliver a government-encouraged message of peace and reconciliation.
If the format sounds familiar, it should. In 2007, a band headed by a former member of 70s disco sensation Boney M was invited to Georgian-controlled South Ossetia to perform within a few kilometers of Tskhinvali, capital of the breakaway region. That concert sought to deliver a similar message. [For details, see the EurasiaNet.org archive.]
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Paul Rimple is a freelance journalist based in Tbilisi.