High Tastelessness

Heard of the latest new Russian pop music phenomenon? No one knows her real name; she’s known only as “n.A.T.o.” and is a self-professed “suicide bomber” musician, who performs in a full-length burqa (i.e. the all-covering Muslim female dress) and veil, singing in Arabic.

Yep, it’s apparently for real. I first got word of “n.A.T.o.” from Belgium’s De Standaard, whose De Kleine Parade feature always has short but noteworthy, even believe-it-or-not pieces of which I have made mention in this space before. But in this case there is thankfully even more extensive coverage available from an English-language source, namely Elizabeth Day’s article in Britain’s Telegraph.

The format behind the name “n.A.T.o.” might ring a bell among some of you; if it reminds you of t.A.T.u., another pop act out of Russia, but one which was built around two young Lolita-type singers who were apt to show rather too much affection for each other while performing on-stage, then you win the prize. Both acts share the same manager, Ivan Shapovalov, who at least is compiling an impressive portfolio of, shall we say, “noteworthy” musical acts formed under his direction.

De Standaard’s coverage concentrates on the shock and consternation n.A.T.o. has understandably caused in the Islamic world, mainly via appearances on Al-Jazeera. (Although the catty among us might ascribe much of that Muslim consternation to the very idea of a women appearing in public to sing in the first place; relatively new-fangled concepts like this have indeed caused loud complaints and furious gnashing of teeth among the audience on Afghan TV, for instance. You might even appraise Muslim elder opinion about n.A.T.o. along the lines that a woman has no business appearing in public like that, whether to sing or to do anything else – but, if she absolutely must, then at least with her burqa and her veil n.A.T.o. has got the dress code right.) Elizabeth Day’s article, on the other hand, mainly depicts the rather cool reception already being met by n.A.T.o. and her managers for their plans to come give one of this singer’s trademark “terror concerts” somewhere in England in the month of November. The kick-off “terror concert” occurred in Moscow last September 11 (of course!) and featured invitations printed to look like airline tickets, to accompany n.A.T.o.’s standard repertoire of songs sung in Arabic, delivered “in front of screens broadcasting images from al-Jazeera . . . interspersed with flashing words such as ‘al-Qaeda’, ‘Iraq’ and ‘Nasdaq’.”


Anyway, it’s the Muslim Council of Britain that has already termed such plans “highly tasteless” and urged people simply to ignore November’s event. Talk about favorable publicity! Such a judgment would have a better potential to drive up ticket sales were it to come from a bit more of a well-known source than the Muslim Council – from a member of the Royal Family, say – but still, Mr. Shapovalov already reports “a lot of interest from UK record companies” in n.A.T.o.

Oh, and that name “n.A.T.o.,” in whatever capitalization scheme you like, is certainly in the public domain. Ms. Day is thorough enough in her reporting to cite this statement from a spokesman for the real (i.e. military-political) NATO: “the name Nato has no copyright. In fact anyone who wishes to call themselves or their child Nato is free to do so.”

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