Live 8 Criticized for Marginalizing African Artists

The Live 8 concerts scheduled for this weekend are aimed at raising global public awareness of the challenges confronting Africa. Madeleine Brand speaks with Philadelphia Inquirer music critic Dan Deluca about that city's Live 8 event, and criticisms that the Live 8 concerts exclude or marginalize African performers.

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As politicians prepare for the G8 Summit, musicians around the world are about to stage Live 8, a series of concerts that aim to raise awareness of poverty in Africa. The concerts will feature some top acts, including U2, Coldplay and Green Day. Live 8 is the brainchild of Irish musician Bob Geldof who, 20 years ago, staged Live Aid for famine relief in Ethiopia. The US concert will take place this weekend in Philadelphia, and to find out more about that concert, we turn to Dan Deluca, music critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer. I asked him, `Since the concerts are free and won't raise any money, what's the point of Live 8?'

Mr. DAN DELUCA (Music Critic, Philadelphia Inquirer): The goal is to raise awareness. You know, in some ways, I think the Live 8 organizers have some explaining to do as to how it works, because it is just a big free show, you know, in the middle of Philadelphia here. It's going to draw potentially as many as a million people, and they're free all over the world. Bob Geldof's idea is it's not about charity, because no amount of charity would be able to solve the problem of struggling economies in Africa, so it's about raising awareness of the issues in the G8 industrial nations so those nations can then act to forgive debt, increase aid and make trade reform.

BRAND: So it's about convincing some 15-year-old kid who's there to see Jay-Z that he should really be concerned about Botswana?

Mr. DELUCA: Well, I think it's a little bit like that, and that seems a little bit absurd, you know. How are you going to help people in Sudan or Somalia by showing up and seeing Destiny's Child and Toby Keith? And I think that's what confuses people. The natural response is, `Why aren't we paying a hundred dollars a ticket for this great bill?' or `Why can't I at least send a check?' But I think what it really is, it's about sort of a global public relations campaign in a way, and it's about trying to get Americans to think about Africa, you know. And people may be skeptical about it. People may think it's dubious. People may think that it's wonderful and noble. But it sort of gets the conversation started.

BRAND: And there's been some controversy that, apart from Dave Matthews, who's South African, there are no African musicians playing in the US concert.

Mr. DELUCA: Right. There are none in the US concert other than Dave Matthews. There are very few in any of the shows except in a show that's called Africa Calling which is taking place in Cornwall, England. And that seems like a really frankly kind of dumb thing to me, that you would be doing a show that was going to benefit the African continent, and you're not involving African musicians.

Bob Geldof's response to that is that they need to have the biggest acts in the world. You know, they need to have Pink Floyd. They need to have Jay-Z. They need to have Madonna, because, you know, they don't want people to turn the TV off. And really, this isn't like a big rock festival. It's like a big pop concert that's made for television. But still, you would think, you know, it might be a good idea to have some of the great African acts play at some of these shows. Instead, they've sort of been shunted off to Cornwall, to a little corner of England in a little African ghetto of their own.

BRAND: Dan Deluca is a music critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and he spoke to us from member station WHYY in Philadelphia.

Dan, thanks so much.

Mr. DELUCA: Thank you.


BRAND: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News and I'm Madeleine Brand.

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