JEDDAH : Janet Jackson, 50 Cent and Chris Brown were among artists who performed on Thursday at a concert in Saudi Arabia that rapper Nicki Minaj pulled out of citing human rights concerns.

A cheering crowd danced to the thumping music at Jeddah World Fest, hosted in the  Red Sea city of western Saudi Arabia.

Such scenes, unimaginable just two years ago, reflect on how the ultra-conservative Islamic Kingdom is easing decades-old restrictions on entertainment.

Minaj - well known for her provocative, profanity-laced lyrics and skin-baring music videos - pulled out of! headlining  the concert in a show of solidarity for women's and gay rights in the ultra-conservative Islamic Kingdom.

The cancellation triggered a social-media storm, with many fans in the kingdom voicing disappointment and demanding ticket refunds.

The singer insisted on Twitter that her decision was not intended to ''disrespect'' the Saudi government.

The announcement of her performance had prompted online backlash from arch conservatives as the  kingdom  pursues a contentious liberalisation drive.

Citing unnamed sources, a few Saudi media outlets including the pro-government OKAZ newspaper insisted that it was the kingdom that cancelled her show, as  it went against local ''customs and values'' .

The Human Rights Foundation has urged artists not to perform in the kingdom.

''It's clear that after losing Nicki Minaj on the basis of the Saudi's regime's atrocious human rights record the their treatment of women and the gay community,  Crown Prince  [Mohammed Bin Salman] has chosen to spend whatever it takes to give the appearance that things are normal and that this is just another concert,''  HRF  president Thor Halvorssen said in a statement. [AFP]


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