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.
I think you are missing the point. Live 8 is not Live Aid 2. The whole point of Live 8 is a massive publicity effort surrounding the G8 summit. Live 8 is not about promoting black and/or white music, it’s about generating publicity to highlight world poverty and the G8 Summit meeting in Scotland July 6-8.
Here is my point. If the majority of the millions of people around the world involved in Live 8 took a look at Africa Calling’s provisional artist line-up listed in your post they would recognise few names, if any. I have never heard of any of the artists. Could any of them fill Wembley Stadium in London for free and command a global audience of two billion people? If so, why have they not put together their own global concert to help their country folk?
It’s easy to denigrate. It’s hard to create something great from nothing which is what Live 8 amounts to. It takes very little effort to be an armchair critic
Richard Silverstein says
No, it’s you who are missing the point I’m afraid. The point of Live8 is to raise the world’s consciousness about Africa so that the continent can move from a state of peonage to one of economic self-sufficiency and prosperity.
If you were planning an event to fulfill that purpose would you choose Elton John to do it or Youssou N’Dour? If you chose Elton John how does that enlighten or educate anyone about Africa? And what good is it to fill Wembley Stadium & the boob tube across the globe if you’re feeding the world the same old pop pablum?
So you’ve never heard of any of the performers I mentioned. I wonder why is that? I wonder how much you know about Africa? Perhaps if you made it a point to visit my mp3 blog & listen to the music of Africa in the posts you’d find there & buy a few CDs you might find that you not only loved the joyful music but you’d want to know more about the wonderful African cultures & societies that generated it.
You’d be surprised at how popular African muscial acts are. WOMAD fills huge festival-size concerts across Europe with mutiple world music acts (many of whom are African). With the promotion that Geldof is bringing to this event, even an all-African lineup & certainly a mixed western pop & African lineup would EASILY sell out Wembley Stadium.
The other thing that makes no sense in your comment is that you basically say that the point of a concert is not the music. If you really believe that then I have to ask whether music is important to you at all? It’s certainly important to me which is why I could absolutely care less about a concert bill that included Paul McCartney & Elton John.
African artists have done precisely what you suggest many times (“why have they not put together their own global concert to help their country folk?”). The fact that you don’t know about huge festivals hosted in African nations for the benefit of Africa is I’m sorry to say due to your own ignorance & not to the lack of trying on the part of African musicians. The problem is that most western white people care not a whit about any other culture than their own (& you alas seem to fall into that category as well). Live8 only reinforces this cultural & musical myopia.
Simone Pfuetzner says
Why this bickering? Please take a step back and look at what is about to happen: People who don’t need to do any of this are sticking their necks out to try to help right a wrong – however much anyone may disagree with the way they are doing this, hopefully doesn’t change this basic understanding. I sincerely hope that Africa Calling gets its fair share of coverage – for my part I can’t wait to see the African performances. But if it’s Madonna or Elton John (or whoever else) instead all day and night, these people are also performing for the same purpose, so I am determined not to bicker and complain. With a bit of luck, this global concert will be able to move things and change some people’s lives for the better – and that’s – really – what counts, at least for me. Good luck and best wishes to everyone involved.
Richard Silverstein says
Simone, you’ve missed the point. This is NOT bickering. This is a serious debate and the objections raised by Andy Kershaw, me and many others are not mere quibbles. They go to the heart of how we change the world and how we help people (e.g. Africans) to change their world. Do we do it from our western armchairs and divans? Or do we do it together with them by rolling up our sleeves and learning about their world on their terms?
Oh and Simone, you’re not going to see any African acts unless you go to the single show at which Youssou N’Dour is playing or unless you attend Africa Calling. And about the mirage-like media coverage of Africa Calling. I just read at a World Music forum that there will likely be no TV coverage whatsoever of Africa Calling, which just confirms some of my worst fears about what the Live8 megalith would do to the upstart Africa Calling in terms of media awareness.
Steve Jahns says
hello my name is Steve I would like to have my name added to the petition. I am low income and I can’t imagine living on what poor people do in Africa. I encourage all the leaders of the G8 to provide that relief and revisit trade policies for Africa thank you the concert is great Steve
Neil Mount says
I also think it was condescending of geldorf in the way he approached this. Clearly the big name bands were vital to make such a big splash but nobody was ever calling for african bands to dominate the stages… simply to alternate some of the stars with authentic and brilliant musicians from the main continent in question. As kershaw suggested I think, the sight of so much talent from africa might have dented the image of poor starving children which is the main visual weapon used by geldorf to promote his consciousness raising campaign.
We all know that these western stars do themselves no harm by appearing for free at such events.. the positive results from including some african bands would have been firstly that the huge crowds would have enjoyed the music greatly and also that the follow on effect of such a massive audience for generally little known worldwide artists would have been probably major increases in sales of their recorded music and higher audiences at their future venues. That would be income.. that would be africans earning money.. that would be EXACTLY the best way to improve the situation in africa.. along with opening markets to africa presently barred by restrictive western trade practices and stopping the usa and uk etc arms trades fueling wars there… and by not supporting repressives regimes all over the world.. so long as they are pro american that is… etc etc..
I was able to watch much of the eden project music thanks to bbc interacive on sat tv.. it was wonderful stuff and my favourite was TINARIWEN.. a tourareg band that I just loved… beautiful music and I will definitley be buying their cd now.. if they had been on stage to billions just imagine how that might have changed their lives..
Richard Silverstein says
Neil, you’ve stated it precisely right. Thanks for giving your point of view.
As for Tinariwen, the forums I linked to in this post (or was it Andy Kershaw himself) also pointed to Tinariwen as extraordinary African musical talent that could’ve held the stage with any western performer. I’ll have to give a listen myself.
Phil Lloyd says
For anyone who wants to know what the fuss is all about much of the Africa Calling day is available to watch online NOW on the BBC website. The day was absolutely fantastic. The best entertainment day in my 52 years and so significant to hear the musicians expressing their desire for change and fair trade with Africa. They don’t want charity. They want fairness and equality. Check out the fantastic music on the Website and then go and buy some of it. We can start the trade with Africa by buying their music. Tinariwen at Hyde Park would have blown Pink Floyd away. The most Cosmic band I have heard this century!
Richard Silverstein says
Phil: Thanks so much for that link & I’ll look forward to catching some of the video.
I couldn’t agree more about urgining people to buy African music. The folk & world music category in this blog has many posts about specific musicians with a song available for listening if you’d like to sample more of this wonderful sound.
And I’ll have to buy Tinariwen after your rousing endorsement.
Richard, I agree with you. There was little wrong with the motivation behind Live8, but generally we are not blessed with a great sense of irony, and relatively few people quite perceived the neat echo of trade barriers in how the line-ups were recruited for the main concerts. Cultural equity isn’t that different from agricultural products – mysteriously African artists weren’t given access to these (albeit temporary) markets. There should have been a lot more cross-fertilisation (as Youssou N’Dour, who engineered his own with Dido, remarked). Mind you, I was at the Eden Project and immensely grateful that Mariah Carey wasn’t.