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Home > Media

Live 8: Is St. Bob a racist? (No.)

4 June 2005

The Live 8 concert, due to take place at Hyde Park next month, has been accused of having a line-up that is ‘hideously white'. The only performer from a minority ethnic background is Mariah Carey, who may be a superstar, but hardly embodies black consciousness in the way that, say, Malcolm X did. There again, Malcolm X didn't release million-selling albums of shite ballads and forgettable R'n'B. As far as we know.

Patrick Augustus, a black musician and author of the BBC drama Babyfather, said black artists had been ‘totally excluded' from the London concert.

‘It seems like the great white man has come to rescue us while the freedom fighters never get a mention,' he wrote on the Black Information Link website.

Strong words indeed. Unfortunately, they are also rubbish.

The ‘great white man' in question appears to be Bob Geldof, who is organising the high profile mega-concert to highlight poverty in Africa - although Augustus could be using the term metaphorically. Either way, with Caucasian political heavyweights like Simon Le Bon and Joss Stone appearing at the gig, the rescue of Africa may still be some way off.

As it turned out, Geldof quickly dismissed the comments, saying that he'd approached several other black acts, but work commitments had prevented them appearing. Somehow this seems rather more plausible than the idea that Bob secretly spends his time posting hate messages on the Combat 18 guestbook.

Augustus also suggested that the line-up didn't have much bearing on issues such as world poverty and racism. He said Live 8 organisers ‘need to engage British, African and Jamaican artists who have been dealing with these subjects for a while'.

At one level, Augustus has a point - in a way it's odd that the concert should feature a succession of white, mainstream acts. The problem is who he'd suggest as an alternative. While Ms Dynamite, Dizzee Rascal and maybe even So Solid are conspicuous by their absence, who else has he got in mind? The reggae act Steel Pulse would be ideal, having released the album African Apocalypse, but it's questionable how many pop fans would go ‘Shit! Steel Pulse! I wondered what they'd been up to! Book the tickets NOW!'

All in all, it's hard to see exactly what point Augustus is making. Has Bob Geldof been racist by not managing to book enough black acts? Hardly. What seems infinitely more likely is that we have so much media - in this case Black Information Link - that more or less any opinion, pointless or not, can be entertained somewhere.

And we should know.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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