London Diary – Do Africans Know It Is Christmas At All? [opinion]

Jal Paddy,

Every year around Christmas, the Chameleones and Bobi Wines of the British music industry retire to the studio to try and hammer out a number-one Christmas song.

They do this with the proven knowledge that pulling our heart strings with a sweet, pleasing Christmas hit will also automatically loosen our purse strings as we all get merry over the birthday of Christ. A number-one Christmas hit usually becomes the most bought song of the year, since UK records sales are highest at Christmas.

And so, not only does a musician make money on this, but he or she also earns the bragging rights and prestige of being the hottest star of the year.

In 1984, one musician, Bob Geldof, decided to take aantage of the attentive Christmas ears to get a group of musicians together to do a Christmas song highlighting the need for aid for famine-stricken Ethiopia.

The nicely-titled song, Do They Know It is Christmas? scaled to the number-one spot and went on to become the biggest selling single in UK singles chart history. Its main theme highlighted a poor and desolate Ethiopia and African continent thus:

“Where nothing ever grows… no rain or rivers flow… where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears…”

With all these goings on, how can Africa ever know it is Christmas unless the British public came to their rescue with donations?

“Let them know it is Christmas time,” the song begged.

As a result, it is said, a lot of Ethiopian mouths were fed many times over. So succesful was the song that it has since been redone many times to raise money for other charities. Fast forward to this year’s Ebola crisis and Bob Geldof thought it wise to dust up the original song, get the current crop of British music stars together, and have a go for Ebola.

However, though the song is still on the money, the general British public and the rest of the world have taken an exception to the lyrics which continue to portray Africa as a forsaken and dark place, with nothing but suffering. Ebola is concentrated in just three countries of West Africa, and not the whole of Africa.

We also know that come Christmas day, the African Christmas celebrations will be more of a blast than the mzungu’s roast turkey and red wine dinner feast. The public disapproval, subtle as it may be, tells you a thing or two about celebrity today, your average mzungu and the sweet-coated bitter pill that is social media.

Just like the everyday bloke deep in Gulu or Ibanda may not know much about London or Belgium, apart from it being the the white man’s land, a big chunk of the bazungu know very little about Africa.

Luckily for these bazungu, the internet and social media are allowing them to see, hear and interact with a much more rounded Africa, different from the dark continent they have always been fed on by the orthodox media.

Social media also gives us the masses more powers over our celebrities, much as the celebs think it is the other way round.

Geldof got brought down a peg or two for being patronising and not doing his homework. But the guy did not become a multimillionaire musician by being stupid. The next time he thinks up a charity song, he will do it much more carefully, whether it be a Christmas song or not.

Have that merry African Christmas, Paddy.

Your friend,


Source : The Observer

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