Andy Kershaw: The myth of Saint Bob, saviour of Africa

He has carved out his reputation by an opportunistic attachment to Africa's suffering

Share
Related Topics

Having shot himself in one foot over the original line-up for Live8, Bob Geldof is now aiming the barrel squarely at the other. Wednesday's announcement that African bands will, after all, be invited to perform at a Live8 event - the Africa Calling concert at the Eden Project - compounds the insult to the continent Geldof purports to help. The arrangements are getting more farcical by the day.

Geldof's arrogance is breathtaking. First, he dismisses the idea of having Africans on his bill since, supposedly, they are not big enough draws. Now, outrageously, he is planning to corral the Africans into Cornwall rather than allow them to appear on the same stage, on equal terms, with their European and American counterparts. And I thought apartheid was dead ...

At the recent Hay-on-Wye literary festival, Geldof was questioned over my attack in this paper on his failure to include Africans on the Live8 bill. His response showed that either he had not read my criticisms or, more likely, he twisted my words deliberately.

I, and several other prominent figures in the music business, have never called for an all-African line-up - I called for a mix of African and Western talent at every venue, a better representation by musicians from the continent to which he was supposed to be drawing attention. All that is needed is a smattering of Africa's finest across all five concerts. This would have been so much less patronising to Africa and could have done so much for African self-esteem.

Yet Geldof seems to believe that listening is a weakness. Despite demands from many quarters that an event which petitions world leaders not to neglect Africa should include, erm ... some Africans, Geldof did precisely that with his original Live8 bill. Now, his compromise is to ghettoise the Africans in the West Country.

I am delighted the Live8 organisers have now heeded my call to stage one of the concerts for Africa in Africa. The announcement of the line-up has been delayed while sponsorship is drummed up. This is, reportedly, because the organisers have only allocated a total budget of one tenth the hourly budget of the London show - tossing the Africans crumbs from the table of Europe's rock aristocracy.

Over the last couple of days, I have spoken to a number of African artists and their managers. They are deeply upset by the arrogance of an event meant to unify the world in support of their nations. They discussed a boycott or an alternative showcase concert on the same day, but, reluctantly, many have agreed to turn up in Cornwall.

They feel Geldof is holding a gun to their heads: it's this or nothing. He might as well put up signs around the lanes leading to the Eden Project saying, "Grateful Darkies This Way ..."

Geldof justifies this exclusion by Bob's First Law of Television: the worldwide audience will switch off instantly at the sight of an African swinging an electric guitar. This is offensive to Africans and insults all open-minded viewers and listeners, wherever they may be tuning in.

How dare Geldof presume the audience will react negatively? Perhaps quite a lot of viewers would enjoy a few African bands and may even find them refreshing after watching hours of clapped-out, over-familiar rock stars. Geldof also claims that, in the end, it all comes down to pulling power, ignoring the fact that several of the top African artists sell many more copies of their albums globally than some of those names on the Live8 bill.

Furthermore, to claim that African artists would be a television turn-off reveals Geldof's meagre knowledge of the continent with which he affects such empathy. Not all Africans live in mud huts without electricity, Bob. Millions of them have televisions. Those African viewers may themselves feel inclined to turn off when faced with a Live8 contemptuous of their finest talents.

I am coming, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Live8 is as much to do with Geldof showing off his ability to push around presidents and prime ministers as with pointing out the potential of Africa. Indeed, Geldof appears not to be interested in Africa's strengths, only in an Africa on its knees. A supreme manipulator of his own public image - who might have drawn admiring whistles from "Mother" Theresa in this regard - he has carved out a reputation, and created the myth of Saint Bob, by his attachment only to Africa's suffering.

And, as with the Albanian obscurantist, Geldof is a self-appointed champion of the wretched and downtrodden who is, simultaneously and incongruously, mesmerised by the rich, the powerful and those with A-list celebrity status. If Geldof has genuine empathy with the continent he claims to champion, he wouldn't be telling Africa's world-beating performers that they're not worthy to share a stage with himself and his tedious friends.

The author is a broadcaster and BBC Radio 3 presenter

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station  

General Election 2015: Despite all the seeming cynicism, our political system works

Ian Birrell
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living