Sunday, July 03, 2005

The carnival is over

Princess Diana

Absolutely nothing to do with the current concerts and protests, this link is something that came via my spambox but is nonetheless intruiging for those of you still dubious about the circumstances of Princess Diana's death.

Diana would undoubtably have approved of this weekend's events. As a media onslaught designed to convey a single message is has been extremely sucessful. Whether the message is heard by the eight in question can be in little doubt - whether they heed it is another matter. The presence of both Kofi Annan and Bill Gates at the Hyde Park gig may actually have more sway with those in question than that of the entertainment megastars.

Yesterday's mail from Jon Snow was pertinent. "Do they know it's Xmastime at all?" was the refrain from the original Live Aid single - "Do They Know it's Live8 at all?" is the point raised here...

Continuing the News From Africa season on Channel 4 News, this mail
comes first from Jon in Uganda, and then Samira in London.

Is Africa watching?
Well right across the globe Live8 is throbbing through the ether making
a fabulous spectacle. Amazing sounds from Tokyo to Moscow, particularly
spectacular in Hyde Park London and Johannesburg.

I say right across the globe but here in Kampala I find the words to
that song ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’ flooding through my brain.

Here it is a case of do they know it’s Live8?

I am afraid they do not.

I’ve just been on the roof of Uganda Television with an engineer trying
to hand crank the satellite dish to a point at which they might somehow
connect with pictures offered up from South Africa.

Even the power supply to make the crude search machine work had to be
cobbled together from three old links of flex, the rooftop and its
equipment looked as it had been rejected by some museum in the 60s.

And that’s the core of the problem: infrastructure.

There is almost no sub-Saharan state outside South Africa that has
anything like a 21st century communications system that would make Live8
widely available to its people. In any case only one in 10 people here
have a TV.

I have scoured the markets and wandered dusky alleys but I have
encountered almost no one who has either heard of Live8 or G8.

In fact so desperate was I, that I went to the bar at Makerere
University – which was packed, the TV was on, but on the wrong channel.

So it’s a good time Saturday here but if you’re thinking global for G8,
Live8 and all the razzmatazz, even if this continent is the target,
forget any idea that anyone knows.

Actually there was one exception - the Bishop of Busoga who I
encountered in a South African style shopping mall here in Kampala, he knew lots
about the summit but nothing of Live8.

In a way, today’s extraordinary event has a telling moral in the pale –
Africa is desperately disconnected from the rest of the world.

Best Wishes

Jon Snow in Kampala.

And from Samira in London

And what does Live 8 mean outside Africa?
The Live 8 concert dominates our coverage from here in London.

With massive crowds and a largest ever global television audience, the
personal passion behind the "Make Poverty History" concerts are
evident. But for those of you old enough to remember Live Aid 20 years ago, it
all looks rather less innocent.

Outside the corporate champagne enclosure ordinary ticket holders had
no alcohol to blame for why Bono appeared to have more grey hair than
Sir Paul.

Dido sang flatter than usual; naughty ticket touts got arrested and
most of the people our Arts Correspondent Nicholas Glass spoke to seemed
to have no idea or interest in the cause behind the gig.

"Ladies and Gentlemen… Kofi Annan! and now.. Miss Dynamite."


The performers themeselves outdid themselves with barely a hint of the egocentric behaviour that often marrs these events. Some, though they will remain un-named, did offer a slightly patronising attitude, but the eclectic mix of both thought and creative style served its purposes. Indeed, there were no real individual highlights because every act delivered its own magical moment in the context of their own audience.

For me, the highlights at Hyde Park were the great and aging rock gods - The Who and, as I expected, the Pink Floyd. Neither were the best performances I've ever seen but in the case of both bands I have been spoilt by growing accustomed to their contemporary entourages. What struck me with both yesterday was how the original members (only 2 of The Who) could quite literally "cut it" without their normal high-tech sets and support musicians.

Mind you, the camera close-ups revealed a lot. Poor Roger Daltrey looked rather aprehensive in the seconds before the final "scream" in "Won't Get Fooled Again" whilst Dave Gilmour of the Floyd looked distinctly less comfortable being on stage with Roger Waters than did Waters with him. That a cause like this pulled two such people together again is telling in itself.

As an audio consumer with highly cathloc musical tastes. this worldwide event presnted a similar dilemma to the previous week's Glastonbury festival - namely that so many events overlap that you can't se everything you want. Although a walk across the park to the Hyde Park site would have taken me only a short time, I opted to stay at home and relish the broadcast sound quality from the BBC whilst trying to get the best of the rest through webcasts. Still barely awake when Totyo finished, it did at least catch Bjork's finale which was wonderful. The African and world music stage at the Eden Project in Cornwall started up an hour or so before Hyde Park and probably offered up the best actual music (and Dance) of the day. Most artistes played longer sets there, with time for a decent ambiance to build up. When Hyde Park started up I switched, but returned back in virtually every break thereafter.

The last leg of my sonic marathon was watching the BBC highlights from the USA stage in Philadelphia but here I was disappointed. Given that, like Hyde Park, this line-up was supposed to be a "creme-de-la-creme" of local superstars, it made me realise just how far removed from other cultures Amerika has become. The support for the cause was, of course, laudable, but I was struck most how the performers were portraying the angst of life in their own society.

Broadcast-wise we got to see glimpses of events in Rome, Berlin, Paris and others, but little attention was given to Johannasberg except for Nelson Mandela's speech. Given that this was the only stage in Africa itself, I found that rather alarming. Although, as Jon Snow pointed out above and previously, communications in the continent itself are woefully inadequate, South Africa is, in general, an exception to that particular rule and we should have been given more.

A prsonal disappoinment was not being able to get the Canadian stage in Montreal. I imagine the real highlight there will have been the performance by Neil Young who, still recovering from a serious operation last year, insisted on participating.

The turnout for the real events was remarkable. At 255,000 people Hyde Park did actually break the Knebworth record I cited last week. Interestingly, although the Scotland concert won't happen until after the G8 start on Wednesday, the protestors on the streets matched those in Hyde Park. That despite around 70 rioters upsetting the vibe, a carnival experience pervaded and the authorities seem happy too. In sheer terms of mass, the Philadephia event must have actually looked incredible with over one and a half million attending!

My latest clicks section has reports from Scotland and CBS in America as received in this morning's delivery. To my astonishment however, today's New York Times does not have a single mention of any concert or even the event itself in it's headlines.

Anyhow, the carnival itself is indeed now over and it will be the coming week that decides the legacy of a remarkable day. Stay tuned.


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