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

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

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Critics of Fiona Woolf say she should step down amid accusations of an establishment cover-up  

Fiona Woolf resignation: As soon as she became the story, she had to leave

James Ashton
 

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities