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The week in corruption, 25 January 2019

Transparency Int'l

Corruption karaoke?

Next Tuesday, 29 January, we are releasing our annual Corruption Perceptions Index for 2018 and while we are excited to share our findings with you, we realise that (SPOILER ALERT) the results might not be exactly uplifting. Without giving too much away, we’re seeing the continuation of some long-term patterns.

That is why this week we want to focus on a strange new trend we’ve noticed: leaders facing serious allegations of corruption using music to try to clean up their image.

This week, former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak — who is currently facing trial for the 1MDB corruption scandal and faces up to 200 years in prison — took to the recording studio, hiring a group of back-up singers to record a version of the 1970s hit soul ballad by The Manhattans, Kiss and Say Goodbye. He translated the lyrics into Malaysian, adapting them to try and redeem his reputation among Malaysians, and lamenting his fall from grace 🙄.

Oddly enough, earlier this month, news broke that former South African prime minister Jacob Zuma, signed a controversial record deal to produce an album of his favourite struggle songs to “preserve South African heritage”. Zuma has been caught up in various corruption scandals over the past few years, facing charges for things like using US$ 15 million of public funds to upgrade his private home. The record deal has been widely criticised as the album would be produced using public funds. However, after predictable backlash, it is unclear if the deal will indeed go through.

It’s undeniable that music has the power to change perceptions, but we feel that this power can be put to better use.

For example, last year some Colombian politicians got together to produce “El Reguéton de la Corrupción”, a Reggaeton song and video raising awareness about the country’s corruption issues ahead of a critical referendum. Also, our Tunisian chapter I Watch just released some slick rap videos from their “Beat the Corrupt” campaign.

Then there’s our ongoing initiative, Fair Play. Last year we hosted the Fair Play Live concert in Copenhagen headlined by yasiin bey (formerly Mos Def) and featuring the winners of our anti-corruption music competition — check them out.

What do you think? Let us know! @anticorruption

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