R&B star Akon has been accused of going to extreme lengths to avoid catching Ebola during a concert in Africa … by crowd-surfing inside a giant plastic bubble.
The ‘Locked Up’ singer climbed inside the airtight blow-up during a performance in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, on Sunday and rolled over the crowd, pushed along by the outstretched hands of 60,000 screaming concert-goers.
But his actions prompted breathless reports from certain media outlets that, rather than just being a creative way of performing closer to his fans, it was a cynical attempt to shield himself from the deadly virus that is sweeping West Africa.
‘The Ebola virus is no joke,’ harrumphed The Source website. ‘And to avoid contracting it from anybody, when Akon left the stage to crowd surf with the people who were attending his concert, he did so in a huge plastic protective bubble.’
What the website did not report was that the five-time Grammy nominee has performed inside the stage prop on a number of previous occasions including in Perth, Australia, and Dubai, both in 2010. Neither of those countries were battling Ebola outbreaks at the time.
‘As Akon, I see myself as a child of Africa,’ the artist told the crowd, who is of Senegalese descent and spent time in Senegal as a child, which he calls his ‘hometown’
While he was born in St. Louis, Missouri, he frequently travels to Africa where his West African-styled vocals mixed with East Coast and Southern beats are hugely popular.
In 2011, Forbes ranked him fifth in its list of the most powerful celebrities in Africa, where he has his own charity for underprivileged children called Konfidence Foundation. He also owns a diamond mine in South Africa.
The 41-year-old, whose hits include ‘Sweetest Girl’ and ‘Smack That’, was not available to confirm or deny the accusations and nobody from his publicity team have yet responded to calls.
Akon is not the only music star with a penchant for inflatable-bubble crowd-surfing either. American rock band The Flaming Lips are also known for the crowd-pleaser, as is DJ Diplo.
The performance was part of a larger free concert held by charity Peace One Day to help promote and support the United Nations’ International Day Of Peace.
The DR Congo has been plagued by violence and unrest for much of the last 20 years as it toiled through a series of bloody civil wars.
Forty-two people have died in DR Congo since the outbreak erupted in West Africa six months ago. The first reported case in DR Congo was on August 26
Some 70 cases of the deadly virus have been confirmed in a remote region near the town of Boende some 800 kilometres (500 miles) northwest of Kinshasa, with a mortality rate of around 60 percent.
According to the World Health Organization and the authorities in Kinshasa, the outbreak is not related to the worst ever epidemic of the virus which has killed more than 3,000 people in west Africa this year.
A month ago, the government said 32 people had been killed in the outbreak, the seventh Ebola outbreak since the disease was first identified in the former Zaire in 1976.
The last case in DR Congo, which has an incubation period of three weeks, was confirmed on 24 September, said the minister. Last month, Congolese authorities had declared the outbreak was ‘on its way to being controlled’.