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04 juillet 2005

Eden hears Africa's call

Anushka Asthana

Sunday July 3, 2005

The Observer

The dancer swung her body from side to side, stamping her feet and shaking her hips in time to the music. She seemed unable to stop smiling. Next to her the singer Thomas Mapfumo stopped to address the crowd. He told them that, living in exile in America after fleeing his native Zimbabwe, he understood Africa's plight. 'Help us to do away with dictatorship,' he cried.

The crowd, more than 5,000 strong, raised their hands and cheered. They were at the outside arena of the Africa Calling, Live8 concert at the Eden project. 'The Eden project is like the signature of sustainability,' said Mike Amies, as he clapped his hands to the music. 'I can't think of a more appropriate location to hold a concert drawing attention to the G8 summit.'

Bands were playing on the main stage and inside the Mediterranean biome, dancing and singing with an enormous range of plant species as a stunning backdrop. Next door, people could wander into the humid tropics biome, where African music emerged from speakers hidden behind giant plants.

In the afternoon, actress Angelina Jolie appeared on stage to introduce one of the acts. She had travelled by helicopter after receiving a call from organiser Peter Gabriel on Friday night.

Backstage, the rapper Emmanuel Jal was getting excited about his performance. 'This is like Africa,' he said. 'The people of Cornwall smile so much more than those in London.' Jal is a former child soldier from war-torn Sudan. He has spent the past six months at the top of the Kenyan charts.

He said it was important that the campaign did not tail off after these events. 'If I told you I loved you today and then didn't say it tomorrow it would look like a joke. We are saying we love Africa today, but I know that after the concerts people will forget unless we keep up the pressure.'

Jal said he was happy to be at yesterday's event but wished he and others had been invited to play in London where their message would have 'more effect'. There was a giant screen showing the events at Hyde Park and African artists were amongthose sitting and watching. On the main stage there were regular announcements about other Live8 events, adding to the feeling of participation in an event that spanned the world.

African star Geoffrey Oryema, who fled Uganda in the Seventies, could be seen talking to fans yesterday. He said it was a shame that there were not more African stars in London. 'This is about the problems in the continent of Africa, so these artists should be there to tell people about it.' He was positive, however, that Bob Geldof's push could one day help to make poverty history.

Had some of the artists been allowed to tread the boards of Hyde Park, Gabriel said it would have been a good thing. Yesterday he insisted Geldof had 'scored an own goal'. He said: 'I mentioned it to chairman Bob and he was of the opinion that unfamiliar artists from whichever country would probably switch people off.' Gabriel added that small bursts of such music would have only added to the entertainment. The electric atmosphere at the Eden project seemed to confirm his opinion.

Make Poverty History Official site

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