Posted August 2, 2005


So, did you watch Live8? I didn’t. It was bad enough having to see all those sanctimonious fuckheads all over the Teev News for days on end. I’m reliably informed that the highpoint was Pete Doherty stumbling out to wander through a duet, or so, with Elton John, it being so marvellously coincidental with his quote in the Libertines bio: “I used to spank off old queens for drug money.”

Sub-Saharan Africa is a seriously fucked-up patch of land. No-one can dispute that. What is in dispute is (and really shouldn’t be) what can be done to improve it. “Cancel their debts” hollers Bono. “Give them more money” growls Geldof.

Africa has received billions upon billions of dollars in foreign aid. Over the last 25 years, life expectancy and living standards have declined. AIDS is rampant. Babies die because their mothers aren’t healthy enough to provide breastmilk. Princes spend $1.5 million on three cars and languish in $3000 hotel suites, ignoring their multi-million dollar mansions up the road. Dictators destroy homes and businesses, for reasons utterly unfathomable – to anyone that hasn’t done a bit of reading on tribalism.

And what is the collective response of the fatted young calves of the Western World? Have a pop concert! Revel in your righteousness! Scream your adoration for a gang of self-obsessed narcissists who are so deeply involved with their own egos that they don’t have the slightest appreciation of any solution beyond the one thing that truly matters to them – money.

Throw it around all you like, it has demonstrably failed to improve the lot of the vast majority of people in Africa. Now, Western colonialism, which really only hit black Africa in the late 19th century, has a hell of a lot to answer for in creating this situation And the allegedly legendary Shaka Zulu was responsible for the deaths of as many as a million people during his 10 year reign. So it’s not as if there was any kind of Arcadian idyll that whitey mucked up, tho let’s not get carried away. King Leopold of Belgium presided over one of the most truly awful rapes in history, when thousands, if not millions, were killed and brutalised in the cause of enriching his dull, shitty country. Almost makes The Great War seem like poetic justice.

Okay, draw a deep breath. You wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t a rock and roll fan. And if you’re REALLY into rock and roll, you’ll be all too well aware that it started in Africa. Some years ago, I was in Zimbabwe, back when it was only mildly fucked up, and the local high school kids came over to the campground to perform. They’d won the regional championships and were on their way to the nationals. It was a performance of native music, drums and vocals only. And it was utterly fucking awesome. One of the greatest things I’ve ever heard.

Come the finale, the whole troupe got on the drums and hammered away, building a drop-dead fantastic polyrhythm that left me gasping. Y’know, you see a great band and you can’t help but dance? And then you see a really, seriously great band and you just stand there with your jaw dropping in awe? It was one of the most awesomely jaw-dropping musical happenings I’ve ever experienced.

Okay, so that was southern Africa and the slaves who were kidnapped and shipped to North America were west Africans, but, none-the-fucking-less, if rock and roll means anything to you at all, then you should at least give half a fucking thought to the continent that invented the rock and roll rhythm.

It’s not about money, it’s all about political corruption and incompetence, which is a concept that Bono and Bob have too much trouble getting their ego-ridden heads around. A taskforce of US Marines could do more good for the people of Africa than all the rockstars in the world, unless, say, the rock stars lined up to submit themselves to fucking target practice.

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