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Kanye West Performs In Kazakhstan, As Riots Follow Local Star's Gig

U.S. rapper Kanye West (right) with his girlfriend Kim Kardashian (file photo)

U.S. rapper Kanye West (right) with his girlfriend Kim Kardashian (file photo)

Just another Saturday night in Kazakhstan?

Kanye West performed at the lush Almaty wedding of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's grandson, while a scene that could have been taken from one of the megastar's own music videos played out in a different part of the city.

News of West performing at the August 31 nuptials of Aysultan Nazarbaev and Alima Boranbaeva in the five-star Royal Tulip Hotel quickly spread after a flurry of pictures and videos posted by wedding guests appeared on Instagram and YouTube.

WATCH: Kanye West performs in Almaty

Unconfirmed reports say West was paid as much as $3 million for the gig in the oil-rich nation, which has been led by Nazarbaev since before independence in 1991.

But in a less regal gathering on the same night, riots broke out when Kairat Nurtas, a Kazakh pop-star, left the stage after showing up late for an outdoor concert and then performing only one song

WATCH: Riots break out at a Kairat Nurtas concert in Almaty

While the events were unrelated, they seem to have been prophesied in a 2012 music video by West himself.

In the video, "No Church in the Wild," which was co-produced with Jay-Z, West explains his desire for money -- even, apparently, when it comes from a leader long accused by human rights groups of corruption and repressing dissent:

"When we die, the money we can’t keep, but we probably spend it all cause the pain ain’t cheap."

The song's lyrics are sung against a video backdrop depicting a clash between police, protesters, and an enormous elephant.

There were no reports of literal elephants at either event on August 31, although there seemed to be plenty of pachyderms of a different sort -- white elephants -- at the wedding.

This massive poster of the newlyweds, for instance, seems like it might be hard to store -- even in the grand Ak Orda Presidential Palace:

And hopefully no white elephants came to any harm at the West household, after one wedding guest, Shynar Nematova, tagged West's socialite partner, Kim Kardashian, in this series of rather adoring shots:

Following Almaty's other nighttime concert at the same time as the lavish wedding, 26 people were injured, according to RFE/RL's Kazakh Service.

Two years ago Sting, the British rock star, cancelled a planned concert in Kazakhstan in a show of solidarity with striking oil workers in Zhanaozen.

Five months later, 16 people died when police fired on demonstrators in the western city.

-- Glenn Kates

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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