Back to Africa

If you picked up the Dallas Observer on Wednesday, July 6 (the day it actually hits most news stands), then you are likely reading this at the exact moment eight world leaders are deciding the future of Africa.

Yes, you were already bombarded with Live 8 blather last weekend. Dave Matthews, Bono and Maroon 5 dropped every guilt trip in the book about the upcoming G8 Summit, and all you wanted to do was relax with a little TV before catching some Independence Day fireworks.

Deaths every three seconds in Africa. Two September 11-level catastrophes every day. Hmm. I wonder what's on Bravo?

But between the guilt tactics, the annoying MTV VJs and the dull, mainstream music acts were the statements, performances and ovations that made America and the rest of the world pay attention, made them log onto or and figure out what the hubbub was, is and will be about for many decades.

This may be an unusual topic for a local music column. But Neil Young and Paul McCartney gave me enough reason to write about an issue close to my heart. I have followed African history and culture for the past few years. I'm no expert on the matter--perhaps only as qualified as a pop star to make an overreaching statement about the continent--but I know Live 8 was about a lot more than pictures of starving kids thrown in our faces like a Sally Struthers commercial.

Here's the embarrassingly quick version: When slavery ended in America, it resumed in Africa, as Europe had already divided and conquered the continent in imperialistic fashion by the 1850s. A hundred years later, when most countries rose up and overthrew their long-distance leaders, Africa found itself neck-deep in debt (for largely corrupt reasons) that couldn't possibly be repaid by non-Western economies.

Ever since, Africa's debts have trapped the people in an import-export cycle of destruction. There's no money for education, hospitals or home-grown industries, because national budgets are too hell-bent on paying decades of interest. (Interest!) Cash crop over-production is the only way to tread water, and since such cropping takes labor and development away from national industries, the rest of the countries' needs are met by importing from Europe and the States. And that's only a fraction of the trouble.

Live 8 wants the G8 Summit to drop debts and open up the continent's trade restrictions. Both actions would be giant steps toward African self-dependency and a healthy economic footing.

Too many people were clueless about the issue until a yacht-load of musicians played on Saturday, but because of the publicity, today's G8 Summit in Scotland could be this century's Gettysburg Address. The slogan displayed during Pink Floyd's reunion concert, "Make poverty history," could actually come true in Africa; any change would be terribly gradual, but the right decision at G8 would be a start.

The most refreshing thing about the Live 8 concert was that it reunited politics and music, an idea that nearly died after the bloat of bad anti-Bush songs in 2004. Madonna won't save Africa with techno music and synchronized dancers, but because of her Saturday performance, millions around the world watched her hug an Ethiopian who lived thanks to the original Live Aid concert.

If it takes pop music, both good and bad, to gather more than 20 million signatures in support of such a cause, then play on, Velvet Revolver and Robbie Williams. But please, kill me if I ever say that again.

Hand stamps: Didn't get tickets to Friday's Billy Corgan show? Then go to the Gypsy Tea Room one day earlier for Thursday's Eisley and Pilotdrift concert. Their pop-rock will be better than Billy, I promise...On Saturday, Mazinga Phaser drags Denton's amazing Silk Stocking to the Double Wide; Tom Waits and P.J. Harvey fans would be insane to miss SS's opening set...Off-kilter country is in full swing at Hailey's on Saturday with Spitfire Tumbleweeds headlining a dandy of a show. Sleepy openers Current Leaves make this one worth getting to early.