Posted on October 4, 2004

n.A.T.o. — A Pop Singer Dressed As A Suicide-Bomber — Causes Outrage

Elizabeth Day, Telgraph (London), Oct. 3

A self-styled “suicide bomber” musician who sings in Arabic and performs in a full-length burqa is planning a “terror concert” in Britain.

The Russian teenage singer, known only as n.A.T.o, performs with her face covered by a veil in front of screens broadcasting images from al-Jazeera, the Arab television station, interspersed with flashing words such as “al-Qaeda”, “Iraq” and “Nasdaq”.

Her manager, Ivan Shapovalov, who last year launched the controversial lesbian pop duo t.A.T.u, plans to give a concert in Britain in November after successfully organising a similar event in Moscow on September 11.

The Moscow “terror concert”, timed to coincide with the anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, included invitations designed like aeroplane tickets. The event was condemned as “sick” by Muscovites who were angered by the apparently frivolous depiction of a suicide bomber days after the Beslan school atrocity in which hundreds of Russian children and adults died.

The Muslim Council of Britain called Mr Shapovalov’s plans “highly tasteless” and urged people to ignore the concert.

“This is seeking to make money on the back of the tragedies of other people,” said Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the council. “We’d rather ignore her. It is clearly designed to be provocative and controversial.” Mr Shapovalov claimed that, despite the protests, he was currently negotiating with two leading British record companies to release n.A.T.o’s first album.

“There has been a lot of interest from UK record companies because it’s a revolutionary project,” he said. “I am neither for nor against terrorism. I am against death. I simply create music.

“If people are scared by a woman wearing a black headscarf, that means they are sick themselves. I’m not leading a campaign. I like her songs and I like it when others listen to things I like. Nowadays, we are facing difficult times. Some organise protests; some give blood; some pray. I simply offer people a new kind of music.

“Every conflict springs from fear. We need to conquer this fear. Why fear a woman in black? Music is acceptance. This is an alternative to loneliness.”

A member of Mr Shapovalov’s creative team added that Britain was seen as an ideal place for a concert tour “because nothing is getting blown up in England”.

Although Mr Shapovalov refused to disclose any further details about the type of songs n.A.T.o would perform, he insisted that the album had been recorded over the summer months before the Beslan school killings.

n.A.T.o, whose real name is not known, is believed to be from the Chelyabinsk region of Russia, near the Southern Urals. She sings in the Tadjik, Georgian and Pharsi languages.

Mr Shapovalov is rumoured to have struck up a friendship with her over the internet.

Mr Shapovalov’s previous pop act, t.A.T.u, consisted of two teenage girls who courted controversy with performances featuring kissing and schoolgirl outfits. The act was denounced as “paedophilic pop” by children’s advocates who tried to have their video banned from the BBC’s Top of the Pops. The duo reached No 1 in January 2003 with the single All the Things She Said.

Mark Borkowski, a public relations adviser and the author of Improperganda — The Art of the Publicity Stunt, called Mr Shapovalov “a ruthless promoter”.

He said: “This demonstrates how much you now have to push the envelope back in order to generate audience attention. But although it’s easy to generate this kind of ballyhoo and throw taste out of the window, the act has to be able to deliver.

“This sounds like he has generated a short, sharp shock and lots of publicity rather than anything lasting. Having said that, it will doubtless get to No 1.”

A spokesman for Nato, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, said that the pop, suicide bomber concept sounded like “a big joke”.

“We have a solid sense of humour at Nato, but this does not sound like a very nice thing,” he said. “She cannot use the Nato logo but the name Nato has no copyright. In fact anyone who wishes to call themselves or their child Nato is free to do so.”