KUALA LUMPUR - Even after toning down Ke$ha's normally raunchy performance, all it took for officials to cancel her weekend concert here was an online video that accuses the American pop singer of being a "satanic cult leader".
The 25-minute-long video made and posted on YouTube by an American Christian fundamentalist group four months ago described the singer-songwriter as a "terrible role model" who leads a "perverse and rebellious" life.
A source in the concert's management told The Straits Times that once officials in charge of concert approvals saw the video, the organisers, Livescape, had to pull the plug on Ke$ha's Warrior Tour performance at the National Stadium last Saturday.
"Online videos like that really don't help our case," he said on condition of anonymity.
Livescape, which has staged more than 100 shows featuring locals and foreign artists, said it adhered to "specific" guidelines by the authorities to make sure they do not offend "religious sensitivities and cultural values".
"After incidents like these, we'll probably take a step back to lick our wounds," said Livescape publicity manager Jason Kong. "But that doesn't deter us from attempting to hold more events."
Various Western stars have had to censor their lyrics, wardrobes and even omit some controversial songs to get approval to perform in Malaysia from authorities which fear they might anger conservative Muslims.
"We have to describe in our application what the artist will wear during the concert," said Mr Andy Ch'ng, who manages a local events production house. "We also tell the star to dress modestly."
Censorship is an issue in Malaysia, which faces rifts between its liberals and conservatives from its Muslim majority as well as other faiths. Islamic political groups like Parti Islam SeMalaysia and Perkasa have protested against appearances by openly gay artists like Elton John and Adam Lambert.
Mr Khoo Kay Peng, a political analyst who owns a concert production company, calls the practice by authorities "regressive". "If they cancel a concert, the youth can still see it on the Internet," he said.
The Central Agency for Application of Filming and Performances by Foreign Artists or Puspal was set up by the Cabinet in 2001 and has the power to decide to cancel an event at the last minute.
"Sometimes these things spiral out of control," said Mr Jason Lo, who heads record company Fat Boys. "It gets sensationalised because these artists are close to the media."
Livescape lost about RM1.1 million (S$434,423) when Puspal ordered the cancellation a day before the show.
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