Olympics-Macron wants Nakamura to sing at Games despite 'racist' backlash

FILE PHOTO: The 75th Cannes Film Festival - Screening of the film "Armageddon Time" in competition - Red Carpet Arrivals - Cannes, France, May 19, 2022. Aya Nakamura poses. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron expressed shock on Monday at a "racist" backlash to the possibility of Franco-Malian pop star Aya Nakamura singing at the Paris Olympics opening.

Macron said he very much hoped Nakamura, the most listened to French female singer in the world, would be chosen as part of the July 26 ceremony beside the river Seine.

"I was shocked by some reactions. There have been truly racist reactions," he told BFM TV and RMC radio. "I hope she will be part of the list in the end... because she is among the big French artists and those most popular worldwide."

Nakamura, 28, became the subject of a social media and political row last month following rumours Macron wanted her to sing songs by French legend Edith Piaf at the ceremony.

She sings in French, with frequent uses of slang, her music influenced by West Indies zouk music, mixing in American R'n'B and Afrobeats. Her best-known song, Djadja, has had close to a billion streams on YouTube alone.

Far-right politicians have said she does not represent France and should not be at the ceremony. Rassemblement National (RN) figurehead Marine Le Pen last month accused Macron of seeking to "humiliate the French people".

Nakamura's supporters say there is no better way of showcasing the vibrancy and diversity of modern Francophone culture.

After the controversy surfaced, Nakamura told detractors on X last month: "You can be racist but not deaf ... That's what hurts you! I'm becoming a number 1 state subject in debates but what do I really owe you? Nothing."

Macron said in Monday's interview that some people had misunderstood and not realised that there would also be many other artists chosen by ceremony director Thomas Jolly for the July 26 extravaganza to kick off the Olympics.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; editing by Ingrid Melander and Andrew Cawthorne)

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