A Westport music venue is embroiled in what has turned into a national controversy with a hip-hop star for booking a Scandinavian band accused of being Nazi sympathizers.
Rapper Talib Kweli on Tuesday told the management of the Riot Room, 4048 Broadway, that he would not perform on Wednesday, Feb. 21, after learning the venue had booked the band Taake, a black-metal band from Bergen, Norway, that has come under recent fire for alleged ties to white supremacists. The Taake show at the Riot Room is scheduled for March 31.
Kweli released a statement on Tuesday that said: “I find it appalling that the Riot Room refuses to apologize for booking this band. I wouldn’t feel safe bringing my team, family and fans into a venue that is sympathetic to white nationalism, so I’ve canceled the show.”
In his statement, Kweli said he was not satisfied with how the Riot Room responded to his objection: “The response I received was that the venue did not want to choose sides between a band that sympathizes with racism and bigotry and me. I think it’s time to choose a side. I find it appalling that the Riot Room refuses to apologize for booking this band.”
The Star reached out to the Riot Room’s owners for a response, but they did not respond.
Taake’s white supremacist reputation goes back to a 2007 show in Germany, when singer Hoest appeared on stage with a Swastika painted on his chest.
The band’s manager, Bjørnar Erevik, has dismissed the incident as one moment of bad judgment. He told Newsweek magazine: “Many of these claims are just ludicrous. They are not into that kind of stuff at all.”
However, Hoest inflamed the situation in his response, in which he said the band’s concept was “built on provocation and evil,” but then told the owner of the club in which the incident occurred to “suck a Muslim.”
The band has also taken heat for its lyrics, which some critics have called xenophobic. Taake, however, have said that the sole intent is to criticize all religions.
The band recently drew the attention of the Antifa — anti-fascist — movement. On Feb. 9, Twitter user Nebraska Antifa tweeted the Riot Room: “Why is Taake booked for March 31? You know they sing about killing Muslims while displaying swastikas, right?”
The Riot Room cancellation prompted an exchange between Kweli and a fellow Twitter user, who tweeted: “I completely understand the difference, but how does a neutral venue draw the line on freedom? Please understand that nobody involved in your show supports Nazis venue included.”
To which Kweli responded: “If you allow a Nazi band to grace your stage you support Nazis. You must work for the Riot Room. (Bleep) you.”
Hoest has since released another statement about his use of the Swastika: “It was all about doing something extreme for the sake of it, which certainly backfired. But it has now been 11 years and the band has even performed in Israel.”
The Taake show on March 31 remains on the Riot Room calendar. However, one of the openers, goth-country artist King Dude, has dropped off the tour. He released a statement that said, “The banner under which people enter a King Dude concert must be welcoming to all people of all walks of life, race, religion, gender etc.”
Venues in New York and Chicago have either canceled or are making plans to cancel Taake shows.
Kweli, a hip-hop artist and social activist, first came into prominence as a member of Black Star, his rap duo with Mos Def. Kweli has released eight solo albums, including “Radio Silence,” released in 2017.