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: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Unbiased': Former M&S boss Sir Stuart Rose  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
Crofter's cottages on Lewis. The island's low population density makes it a good candidate for a spaceport (Alamy)  

My Scottish awakening, helped by horizontal sleet

Simon Kelner
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public