Saying no to Bob Geldof is one of the hardest decisions I have had to make this year. However, seeing what looked like the corpse of an African woman being carried out of her home on primetime TV when thevideo was premiered on X Factor crystallised my concerns about this strategy to combat the Ebola crisis. For me it is ultimately flawed.
A week before the recording of Band Aid 30, I received a call from Geldof asking if I would take part. I was honoured to be asked and, connecting with his passion for wanting to tackle the Ebola crisis, said I wanted to offer my support.
But I also had my concerns. I was sceptical because of the lyrics and the videos of the previous charity singles, and I worried that this would play into the constant negative portrayal of the continent of Africa in the west. Geldof and I spoke at length about this and he agreed with me on many levels, assuring me that we could use it as an opportunity to showcase the positives of Africa.
However, on receiving the proposed lyrics on Thursday – two days before the recording was due to take place in London – I was shocked and appalled by their content. The message of the Band Aid 30 song absolutely did not reflect what Africa is truly about and I started to question whether this was something I wanted to be a part of.
I pointed out to Geldof the lyrics I did not agree with, such as the lines “Where a kiss of love can kill you and there’s death in every tear”, and “There is no peace and joy in west Africa this Christmas”. For the past four years I have gone to Ghana at Christmas for the sole purpose of peace and joy. So for me to sing these lyrics would simply be a lie.
In truth, my objection to the project goes beyond the offensive lyrics. I, like many others, am sick of the whole concept of Africa – a resource-rich continent with unbridled potential – always being seen as diseased, infested and poverty-stricken. In fact, seven out of 10 of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa.
Let me be clear, I’m not disregarding the fact that Ebola is happening and that people need help. Since the start of the outbreak in March it has killed more than 5,000 people. But every human being deserves dignity in their suffering and the images flashed on our screens remove any remnants of this from Ebola sufferers, many in their dying moments, when they should have it the most.
I am not disputing Band Aid’s good intentions. But the shock-factor strategy they have used since the 1980s has sparked a whole wave of “good cause” organisations that have been irresponsible with regard to the images shown to the rest of the world. It’s been totally one-sided. That’s understandable in part, as they wouldn’t raise much money if they showed the affluence, wealth, and happy lifestyles that exist in the continent. But in the process of doing all this “good work” a huge imbalance has been created.
That image of poverty and famine is extremely powerful psychologically. With decades of such imagery being pumped out, the average westerner is likely to donate £2 a month or buy a charity single that gives them a nice warm fuzzy feeling; but they are much less likely to want to go on holiday to, or invest in, Africa. If you are reading this and haven’t been to Africa, ask yourself why.
This is New Africa (Tina) is a movement empowering people to shed a positive light on Africa. I was born in Tooting, south London, and was taken as an infant to Ghana. Returning to London at the age of 11, being African was not something to be proud of because of all the negative connotations it conjured up, and it drove me to be almost ashamed of who I was.
Anyone who has experienced Africa in a positive way is a citizen of the New Africa and needs to play their part in challenging perceptions. I’m sharing my experience through my music – and if I can make chart-topping music that celebrates Africa then surely Band Aid and its extensive network can do the same. I’ve performed in two of the three countries currently hit by the Ebola crisis, where I have friends and loyal fans, and will be donating the proceeds from my next single to help tackle this issue.
I hope from the bottom of my heart that the disease can be eradicated in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. But though shock tactics and negative images may raise money in the short term, the long-term damage will take far longer to heal.
source : The Guardian