Live8 and Emmanuel Jal
July 1, 2005 9 Comments
On Saturday July 2nd, Live8 concerts will be held in ten cities around the world. They will feature the biggest and most famous names in pop. Performing in London, at Hyde Park, will be the African Children’s Choir, Annie Lennox, Bob Geldof, Coldplay, Dido, Elton John, Joss Stone, Keane, The Killers, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Ms. Dynamite, Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, Razorlight, REM, Robbie Williams, Scissor Sisters, Snoop Dogg, Snow Patrol, Stereophonics, Sting, Travis, U2, UB40, Velvet Revolver. What jumps out at me instantly is that none of these artists is African. On Wednesday night, I happened to catch up with Emmanuel Jal – a young Sudanese rapper and currently the hottest act in East Africa – who was performing at the Ritzy. It turns out that he was publicly invited by Fran Healy, the lead singer for Travis, who had been in Sudan to “see the plight of Africans for himself”. Healy, who has stoutly defended Bob Geldorf against charges that the Live8 is nothing more than a careerist prop, promised Emmanuel that he would be part of the line up at Hyde Park tomorrow night. But this will not be the case. Emmanuel told me that Geldorf had informed him in no uncertain terms that he could not participate. Only artists who had “sold more than 4 million records” would get on stage Sir Bob informed young Emmanuel.
A former child soldier in war-torn Sudan, and a strong talent, Emmanuel should be what Live8 is all about. His debut album, Gua (‘Peace’ in his native Nuer language), ‘fuses staccato rapping in Arabic, English, Kiswahili and Nuer’, and is an incredible piece of work.
This is what Live8 has to say about itself:
“This is not Live Aid 2. These concerts are the start point for The Long Walk To Justice, the one way we can all make our voices heard in unison. This is without doubt a moment in history where ordinary people can grasp the chance to achieve something truly monumental and demand from the 8 world leaders at G8 an end to poverty. The G8 leaders have it within their power to alter history. They will only have the will to do so if tens of thousands of people show them that enough is enough. By doubling aid, fully cancelling debt, and delivering trade justice for Africa, the G8 could change the future for millions of men, women and children.”
But of course the concerts or the Long Walk to Justice or the pledges of aid or debt cancellation have nothing to do with Africans and poverty. This is all about a self obsessed, cynical use of suffering to prop up fledgling pop careers for those like Geldorf; cynical political machinations by the Blair types who understand that there is much mileage to be made from ‘helping Africa’ when they are deeply unpopular on other fronts; and an aid industry that has become hopelessly addicted to living high off the proceeds of suffering. If only that snot nosed boy with a Kwashiorkor-distended belly and perhaps a couple of bullet wounds knew how many people he feeds, clothes and houses in luxury. If only he knew how much aid he has given to the washed out, mediocre types who clamour to help him.
In all the major concerts, there will be few if any Africans on stage. The closest thing to one in London will be Snoop Dogg who was brought in at the last instant to add a dash of colour to the proceedings. Then there will be the African Children’s Choir. These are kids from the nKomazi region on the northern border of South Africa. We are told by their founder, Ray Barnett, that AIDS is devastating their villages, that they are all orphans and that “their story is that of so many children in sub-Sahara Africa.” The purpose of their attendance will be to show the world the plight and hope of all African children.
I have no doubt that they are quite talented and all that, but they are not going to be on stage as artists. They are a project. Just like Africa and Africans are projects. We have long since shed any vestiges of human independence and ability and have become walking sores, diseases and killing machines according to our ‘friends’. Emmanuel or any other African musician must not be allowed to perform in front of the hundreds of millions who will be tuned into the concert broadcasts. For that to happen, it would be revealed that in fact Africa has minds, opinions and a life outside the beggary and misery that is the staple food of the Geldof types.