When I was a teenager, I had a copy (on tape – remember those?) of Paul Simon’s Graceland. Back then, I loved the music, even though I had no idea of the history behind it. A while ago, I bought the DVD of the 1987 Harare Graceland concert after fishing around for the individual tracks on YouTube. The music still stands all those years later, and I was blown away by the beauty of the performance and the strength of the performers – it’s a historical document.
Ethan Zuckerman has an interesting write up on the background to the Graceland album here.
Simon recorded the album and played the Zimbabwe concert with an amazing line up of African artists, for which I love him muchly: a musician doing what he does best, and to do so, he sought out his South African peers.
The Daily Mail of all publications recently had an interesting article on the corrosive legacy of LiveAid, and what I find particularly irritating is that these days, musicians and actors expect us to listen to them hold forth on how to save Africa. Shouldn’t we have sent Wahu and Nameless to Greece to advise them on their financial crisis?
Live 8, the 2.0 version of LiveAid and a massive global circus to fight poverty in Africa, started out without African musicians. When they were later added to the agenda, they were sent to play in an artificial rain forest – interesting symbolism no?
When Bono heard that the great, late Ali Farka Touré, accomplished musician and mayor of Niafunké, did not think the Live 8 concert was a good idea, he reportedly said: “If he doesn’t reckon Live 8 are helping his people, maybe they should rethink him being mayor.”
I will listen to Bono et al when they play concerts in Africa like they play concerts in Europe and the US. Nairobi, Kampala, Kinshasa, Lagos, Accra, Bamako, Dakar. They are musicians. They do music. Just not in, for, with Africans?
I’m looking forward to the Hugh Masekela concert tomorrow and Albertina Sisulu’s recent passing made me think about South Africa’s history again.
With gratitude to those who stood up: