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Rap battle: Blackpink fans silence bad boy Malaysian rapper | Arts and Culture News



Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Wee Meng Chee, better known as the controversial Malaysian Chinese rapper and director Namewee, did not think his new song which features the “very very rich” Malaysian Chinese elite would unleash a global storm of anger from thousands of Blinks.

“Blink” is the official name for the most dedicated fans of South Korean K-pop superstars Blackpink, currently considered the world’s most marketable girl group. In the over-the-top language of the truly obsessed, Blinks say they will ‘”always protect and love Blackpink under any circumstances”.

This time, Blinks in Malaysia and around the world were upset by a line from Namewee’s latest parody song: You Know Who Is My Father? released on YouTube on May 28. They universally slammed the song – performed in a creole mix of Malaysia’s main languages (Malay, Mandarin and other Chinese dialects and Tamil) and English known as “Manglish” – as misogynistic and sexist.

While scantily clad women drink and gyrate around him in a nightclub, the rapper sings “see yourself, always look at Blackpink and masturbate”. The line is a riff on working-class Malaysian men who, unlike the music video’s filthy rich lead character, drive cheap cars and can only dream of having his over-the-top lifestyle.

Amid the controversy, the song garnered 4.5 million views and more than 68,000 comments in less than two weeks. Many accused Namewee of sexism and disrespecting women and called on the rapper to apologise for debasing the group.

But these comments only made Namewee goad his detractors further. “Thanks for giving me view rate, please continue! How you like that that that that,” wrote the rapper, referencing Blackpink’s hit song: How You Like That.

Respect women

Namewee has made a name for himself by courting controversy and ruffling the feathers of the Malaysian authorities and fans alike.

The Malaysian-born artist first attracted attention in 2007 because of a provocative song he produced while studying in Taiwan: I Love My Country, Negarakuku – a play on the title of Malaysia’s national anthem which includes the local slang for “penis”. The video was supposed to be a lighthearted take on the challenges the Malaysian Chinese minority faces in the majority Malay Muslim country but it almost got him charged under the colonial-era Sedition Act. He was forced to make an official apology and take the song down from YouTube.

Namewee ran into trouble last year over his film Babi

Depending on who you ask, Namewee is not just a provocateur.

For some, he is a fearless activist, a bold filmmaker, a comedian with a sly sense of humour.

To others, he is a troublemaker who stirs up racial controversy.

Last year, members of the ruling coalition’s youth wing, as well as a local artistes’ association complained to the police about his film Babi (Malay for “pig”, a word often used as a racial slur in multiethnic Malaysia), which depicts a school riot that local authorities allegedly tried to cover up 20 years ago for fear of inflaming racial tensions. Many of Malaysia’s ethnic minorities live under a social contract that champions the rights of the majority ethnic Malays.

Namewee has pilloried the hothouse world of K-pop before. In a 2015 video, K-pop Idol, which has been viewed 6.7 million times, the rapper has plastic surgery and becomes a beautiful Korean pop star.

But in You Know Who Is My Father? – sponsored by an online casino – he takes aim not at K-pop or Blackpink but at nouveau riche Malaysian Chinese elites, delivered in a style not dissimilar to South Korea’s Park Jae-sang, better known as Psy, purveyor of the mega-hits Gangnam Style and Daddy.

In fact, beneath the satire lurks a serious social message.

Namewee is upfront about his intentions in the video’s description. He highlights what he calls “the moral of the song” with a familiar piece of social commentary: “Don’t play play with rich people, they can PIAK [“hit”] your face anytime they want, even in the steamboat restaurant.” This is a reference to an incident in Kuala Lumpur in January when two wealthy customers had a spat in a local restaurant.

But Namewee’s parody of Malaysia’s elite did not sit well with Blackpink’s fans.

“Very local references to global icons are now being promptly subjected to the scrutiny of Blackpink’s global fandom,” Liew Kai Khiun, a Singapore-based independent researcher of transnational cultural studies, and a committee member of the Inter-Asia Popular Music Studies Group, told Al Jazeera. “The monitoring of any mentions and references to K-pop idols is also part of the emotional commitment of fans.”

Besides Malaysians, thousands of Blinks from places as diverse as Turkey and Latin America flooded the comments section of Namewee’s video, telling him to “respect Blackpink” and “respect women”. One user, Jendukie, advised the rapper to be ready to face the consequences, because “you mess with the wrong fandom”.

Don’t mess with the army

According to a 2020 poll by #KPopTwitter, Malaysia is the seventh-strongest K-pop market in the world. K-pop in Malaysia is huge and its biggest acts are promoted endlessly.

Joanne BY Lim, an associate professor in cultural studies at the University of Nottingham Malaysia, and the co-editor of The Korean Wave in Southeast Asia, believes that K-pop’s current success is due to online streaming after K-pop lost its Malaysian fanbase thanks to its repetitive formats towards the tail end of the 2010s.

Blackpink’s most dedicated fans, known as Blinks, accused Namewee of disrespecting the group in his latest YouTube video. He has now taken it down although an audio track remains [File: Rich Fury/Getty Images via AFP]

One key strategy was the use of social media to involve the group’s most dedicated fans in the bands and producers’ decision-making.

“The ability to communicate with like-minded individuals (and up until recently, to chat directly with bands) altered immensely the K-pop experience for fans, while providing them with a real sense of belonging to this community,” Lim told Al Jazeera.

When popular groups like Blackpink and BTS started collaborating with US producers using English instead of the genre’s staple Korean lyrics, K-pop became even more globalised, amassing a legion of fans.

In Namewee’s latest song, Lim sees two dynamics at play. On the one hand, Blinks’ accusations seem to be an overreaction to the song as they fail to understand its irony. On the other hand, their response has opened the door to the condemnation of sexual harassment.

“If we focus on the lyrics, one can expect such dissent to be inspired by many recent movements ranging from #MeToo to #MakeSchoolsASaferPlace, whereby a 17-year-old Malaysian student lodged a police report against her teacher over an alleged rape joke during class, sparking a debate on misogyny in Malaysia,” Lim said.

Cleaning up their act


The ‘nasyid’ group Rabithah transformed Blackpink and Selena Gomez’s racy hit Ice Cream into Hatiku (My Heart) – a declaration of love for Allah in the Malay language [Courtesy of Tarbiah Sentap Records]

Critics of K-pop culture have often berated its sexualisation of women and its “toxic” culture of fandom. So Namewee being told to “respect” Blackpink has more than a hint of hypocrisy. Cultural analyst Lim believes that “the K-pop star image tends to objectify women,” as it adapts to the demands of the global pop music market.

In more conservative Malaysia, the success of K-pop, and of Blackpink in particular, has also driven local versions of the songs and videos.

Pop “nasyid” (Islamic a cappella singing) groups have produced cover versions of K-pop hits adapted to Malaysian Muslim sensibilities.

“By changing the lyrics, we are making it easier for kids to choose a more positive form of entertainment,” said Usamah Kamaruzaman, a sound engineer and spokesman for Tarbiah Sentap Records, home to artists such as the Faith, Syed Salahuddin, the Truth, and Rabithah.

The latter released Hatiku (My Heart), an “Islamic” version of Blackpink and Selena Gomez’s racy hit Ice Cream, in October 2020, transforming the original lyrics filled with sexual innuendo into a declaration of love for Allah in the Malay language, garnering more than 280,000 views in the first couple of weeks after it was released on YouTube.

It is unclear whether clean-cut nasyid K-pop passed under the Blinks’ radar because of the language barrier.

For Namewee, though, views of You Know Who Is My Father? have risen amid the Blinks’ online protestations.

Namewee subsequently deleted the word “masturbate” from the video’s English and Malay-language subtitles.

Malaysian singer and flmmaker Namewee, pictured at the 57th Golden Horse Awards ceremony in Taipei last year, satirises the rich and the powerful [File: Ritchie B Tongp/EPA]

But he kept it in the Mandarin vocals and subtitles, and the Blinks continued to rage against it.

On Monday, the video was removed from YouTube for infringement of regulations, leaving only a lyrics-only version and a video on how the song was made on the site.

User Jendukie was perhaps right: Blinks’ reach is global and they really are the “wrong fandom” to mess with even for a seasoned provocateur such as Namewee.

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Explainer: What is the Delta Plus variant of COVID-19? | Coronavirus pandemic News




Scientists worry the mutation, coupled with other existing features of the Delta variant, could make it more transmissible.

India on Wednesday said it has found about 40 cases of the Delta coronavirus variant carrying a mutation that appears to make it more transmissible, and advised states to increase testing.

Here is what we know about the variant.

What is Delta Plus?

The variant, called Delta Plus in India, was first reported (PDF) in a Public Health England bulletin on June 11.

It is a sublineage of the Delta variant first detected in India and has acquired the spike protein mutation, called K417N, which is also found in the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

Some scientists worry that the mutation, coupled with other existing features of the Delta variant, could make it more transmissible.

“The mutation K417N has been of interest as it is present in the Beta variant (B.1.351 lineage), which was reported to have immune evasion property,” India’s health ministry said in a statement.

Shahid Jameel, a top Indian virologist, said the K417N was known to reduce the effectiveness of a cocktail of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.

Where all it has been found?

As of June 16 (PDF), at least 197 cases have been found in 11 countries – Britain (36), Canada (1), India (8), Japan (15), Nepal (3), Poland (9), Portugal (22), Russia (1), Switzerland (18), Turkey (1), the United States (83).

India said on Wednesday about 40 cases of the variant have been observed in the states of Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, with “no significant increase in prevalence”. The earliest case in India is from a sample taken on April 5.

Britain said its first five cases were sequenced on April 26 and they were contacts of individuals who had travelled from, or transited through, Nepal and Turkey.

No deaths were reported among the United Kingdom and Indian cases.

What are the worries?

Studies are continuing in India and globally to test the effectiveness of vaccines against this mutation.

“WHO is tracking this variant as part of the Delta variant, as we are doing for other Variants of Concern with additional mutations,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement sent to Reuters news agency.

“For the moment, this variant does not seem to be common, currently accounting for only a small fraction of the Delta sequences … Delta and other circulating Variants of Concern remain a higher public health risk as they have demonstrated increases in transmission,” it said.

But India’s health ministry warned that regions where it has been found “may need to enhance their public health response by focusing on surveillance, enhanced testing, quick contact-tracing and priority vaccination”.

There are worries Delta Plus would inflict another wave of infections on India after it emerged from the world’s worst surge in cases only recently.

“The mutation itself may not lead to a third wave in India – that also depends on COVID-appropriate behaviour, but it could be one of the reasons,” said Tarun Bhatnagar, a scientist with the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research.

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EU citizens in UK to be given 28 days to apply for settled status | Brexit News




People who miss the June 30 settlement scheme deadline will be issued warnings to apply or risk losing their rights.

European Union citizens living in the United Kingdom will be given a 28-day warning to apply for post-Brexit settled status or face losing some of their rights from next month, the government said on Tuesday.

The UK’s so-called settlement scheme for EU and European Economic Area (EEA) citizens, which opened in early 2019, closes on June 30.

It allows Europeans in the UK to retain the same residence, travel, employment and healthcare rights they had before Brexit.

The rules around the UK’s departure from the bloc, which came into force at the beginning of this year, ended the reciprocal freedom of movement.

About 5.6 million people and their dependents have applied for settled status under the scheme since it was introduced.

But about 400,000 cases still require processing, while many are rushing to submit their applications before next week’s deadline.

At the same time, messaging and outreach campaigns are targeting those who may not be aware of the need to apply by next week’s deadline.

Immigration minister Kevin Foster said anyone whose application was not filed by the deadline would not see their rights immediately withdrawn, as they were protected by law.

But he also ruled out extending the June 30 cutoff point.

“Put simply, extending the deadline is not the solution to reaching those people who have not yet applied, and we would just be in a position further down the line where we would be asked to extend again, creating more uncertainties,” Foster told members of a parliamentary committee.

He added that immigration enforcement officials would instead begin issuing 28-day notices to those yet to apply.

The UK’s Home Office, which oversees immigration, said that applications may also be submitted past the 28-day notice period in some cases.

“We’ll set up the support available and we’ll signpost people to make an application, but we do recognise that there may be some people who, after that 28 days, still haven’t been able to make an application,” a Home Office spokesman said, according to The Guardian newspaper.

“I think we would want to work with them to understand why that is the case, and then support them again to make the application.”

Foster said those who had missed the deadline on reasonable grounds will still be able to apply, citing exceptions such as children whose parents had failed to apply on their behalf, or individuals with a serious illness that had prevented them from filing their paperwork.

The government will also issue a “certificate of application” for those awaiting a decision, he added, which will act as proof of their right to work, rent property, obtain benefits and use the National Health Service.

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Distribution of Mosquito Nets to Markets Traders Commences




Government has on Wednesday started distributing mosquito nets to traders; starting with the Nakasero market.

The exercise was kick-started with 2000 mosquito nets from Quality Chemicals Limited (QCL).

During his last address to the nation on Friday 18th June 2021, President Yoweri Museveni announced a 42-day lockdown directive, and all food market vendors were asked to stay at their places of work to avoid spreading the disease.

“Food market vendors should revert to the Presidential Directive of March 2020 to stay in their places of work,” he said.

President Museveni also said that the food market vendors were to be provided with mosquito nets and polythene sheets for their protection.

Handing over the donation, Mr. Emmanuel Katongole, a director at Quality Chemicals Limited applauded the market vendors for the sacrifice made when they fled their homes to sleep at workplaces to earn a living for their families and provide food to our communities.

“It is therefore important to us to ensure that they are protected from the harmful mosquitoes that linger in the night. We have donated 2000 mosquito nets to the Ministry of Health who will supply them to the market vendors,” he said

Adding, “I applaud the president and the Ministry of Health for their role in the fight against covid-19. As Quality Chemicals, we decided to contribute towards government efforts in the fight against malaria.”

Upon receipt of the donation on behalf of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary applauded quality chemicals for a helping hand.

“The women who sleep in the market are about 5000 according to the number that was given to us by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). The ministry has also brought 3000 nets to ensure that the population is covered. The nets are to protect them from mosquito bites while you’re asleep,” she said.

She asked them to follow the Standard Operating Procedures to avoid the further spread of Covid-19.

The post Distribution of Mosquito Nets to Markets Traders Commences first appeared on ChimpReports.

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