Bob Geldof and the folks behind Live8, a megaconcert designed to promote awareness of Africa, have reacted to the controversy engendered by its all-western, mostly all-white performer list by asking WOMAD to host a separate concert. Africa Calling on July 2nd will feature an all-African performer roster. This concert will receive some coverage in the midst of the BBC’s overall coverage of Live8.
Concert organizers released a press release today which describes the lineup:
Provisional Artist Line-Up
Hosts: Youssou N’Dour and Peter Gabriel
With performances from:
Akim El Sikameya (Algeria/France)
Angelique Kidjo (Benin)
Ayub Ogada (Kenya)
Daara J (Senegal)
Maryam Mursal (Somalia)
Modou Diouf & O Fogum (Senegal)
Salif Keita (Mali)
Shikisha (South Africa)
Thomas Mapfumo & the Blacks Unlimited (Zimbabwe)
Despite this turnaround on the part of Geldof and his partners, there are still disturbing issues here. First, Geldof has “farmed out” Africa Calling to Midge Ure, one of his collaborators, who has in turn farmed out the production duties to WOMAD. Now, WOMAD is a sterling organization which will no doubt do a great job in bringing Africa Calling together. But I see no understanding on Geldof’s part of why his original decision for an all-celebrity, all-western roster was so ill-conceived. It’s almost as if he’s saying: “Oh, let’s just get those whiners off our backs by offering them their own gig.”
Ultimately, I think participating in Africa Calling is the right thing for African musicians and concertgoers to do because any exposure of the music to a wider audience is a good thing. But that being said, this concert smacks of a “separate but equal” event. Like the U.S. Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson, which said that African-Americans could be fully accomodated in “separate but equal” public accomodations, Geldof is saying go have your concert as long as it’s away from us. It strikes me as a terribly awkward compromise.
While I admire WOMAD and Peter Gabriel immensely (though I am teed off at how WOMAD abandoned Seattle–and the U.S.–as a WOMAD venue a few years ago), I’m sure they have a few mixed feelings about how Africa Calling came about. But I wish them all well on July 2nd and wish I could be there.
Africa Calling video is available to watch online NOW on the BBC website.