Baaba Maal: The wrong note for Africa

Share
Related Topics

I'm surprised there aren't more African artists participating in Live 8. I would have thought something on this scale would call for their presence. My worry is the difficulty of communicating these serious issues to a whole continent where a lot of poor people don't even have a television, but who are intrinsically connected to their culture. If you want to get the message to the poor, you have to use their language, which is their own music.

I appreciate that people want to take a stand and perform at a concert to call attention to the plight of Africa and our fight against poverty. I think it's very important. To put on these shows and say to the world: "Stop and think about what to do about Africa" is a noble idea, and I respect them. But to really make something happen, more African artists should be involved.

The biggest mistake many people make is that though they want to help Africa, they don't understand that the continent is very complex. People have to learn more. It's not enough just to know about the big cities like Dakar, Lagos or Johannesburg. If you want to help people, you have to put into the minds of all Africans that the future of this continent should start with them, with help from the rest of the world.

It will be Africans who are going to make this work. They're the ones who will work in a new hospital after the aid workers have gone. They have to be involved from the beginning, so that they understand what is going on, and what they will have to do afterwards. It's very good to organise a concert, or to have meetings in London or Edinburgh, but poverty in Africa needs more than one concert, or two concerts, or a year to talk about this. This is a process that has to include everyone.

I do feel it's very patronising as an African artist that more of us aren't involved. I met Bob Geldof when I did an Aids awareness concert in Cape Town, in the presence of Nelson Mandela. It was a great concert, the music was good, the intent was very honourable, but you couldn't see the people who were really sick with HIV/Aids in the crowd. They were far away from everything. It wasn't even on TV or radio. It's better strategy to make people interested in what is being done for them.

I realise there's integrity in what Live 8 is doing. But we have to be very careful because we live in a time where everything is about money, building a reputation, protecting a career. African people are used to hearing that people have done something for them, but then never seeing the money arrive.

It's good when Tony Blair or Mandela says that this year they are going to focus on African poverty. But all through the last decade people tried to help Africa but didn't find the right way to get aid to the people who really needed it. That is the problem. And I know the energy is here, especially among the young people, and they want to do things, but the money never arrives to help them.

If, in a concert like Live 8, people don't give African artists the chance to appear, how are they going to add their voice? They need to be given a chance to bring something back to Africa. To have a few more African acts on the bill, aside from Youssou N'Dour, would make more sense.

We have a proverb: "The doctor is coming to help the one who is sick. The doctor is very noble in his actions, but the one who's sick is more concerned about how people are going to treat him." I think you have to talk to your patient. It is him who came to you and said: "Help me, I want you to heal me." So everything you do for him, you have to take the decision with him.

My problem isn't that I'm not involved myself: it's not seeing people like Salif Keita or Angélique Kidjo, who travel the world and talk about Africa. They're fighting to make people understand that we are all the same. These people should have a place in a concert like this. This is not about how many records African artists sell. It should be about the whole package. If African artists aren't given a chance, how are they going to sell records and take the message back to Africa? Sometimes it seems to be about keeping these artists down at a level where some people want them to stay.

I wish the concert success, but I ask them to consider very carefully what happens after the event. That's the important thing. Some young people in Africa may not go to school, but they are very intelligent and they are tired of all these people using the name of their continent without understanding their needs.

Baaba Maal headlines the Glastonbury JazzWorld stage with his band Daande Lenol on 25 June, and Prom 40 at the Royal Albert Hall on 13 August. He is a UN representative on the issue of HIV/Aids in Africa.

React Now

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

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron has painted a scary picture of what life would be like under a Labour government  

You want constitutional change? Fixed-term parliaments have already done the job

Steve Richards
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song  

Ukip Calypso by Mike Read? The horror! The horror!

Patrick Strudwick
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past