Rock’n’Roll and Politics in Africa

You may have heard that Bryan Adams recently took some stick after playing a show in Zimbabwe, home of that thug, Robert Mugabe.  This Letter from Africa from the BBC looks at that event and other rock’n’roll moves on the continent.

I’m not a fan of soft rock, that syrupy genre of music sometimes set to swaying lighters in darkened stadiums or sentimental Hollywood blockbusters like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.But while the world is so big and people’s tastes so diverse, it is also true to say that the world is getting smaller as places are now so reachable.

So it should be no great surprise to learn that while I’m moved by the jazz giants and the reggae masters, the man in the village next to me might be a huge fan of Bryan Adams and can be heard humming (Everything I Do) I Do It for You on his way to water his yams while plugged into his iPod.

It would be wrong to think that Africa does not engage culturally with the world at large in this way, that the universal languages of cinema or music have somehow passed us by in the intractable mazes of our politics.

And so when human rights advocates got their megaphones out the other week to declare Canadian rock singer Bryan Adams’s proposed concert at the Harare International Conference Centre “inappropriate”, it brought this very issue to the fore.

Dewa Mavhinga, of Human Rights Watch, announced: “It might send the wrong message that Zimbabwe has come right and there is a basis for international cooperation to resume when there is not. Zimbabwe is going backwards.”

There’s more, including opinions on taking “dictator cash.”

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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