Live 8 at Eden - Africa Calling

Various Artists, 2006

Most people will remember July 2nd 2005 as being the day that Bob Geldof put on his Live Aid hat with the grand aim of persuading world leaders to Make Poverty History. He enlisted many A-list musical celebrities to appear at concerts in London, Berlin, Paris, Philadelphia, and Rome. Tens of thousands were packed like sardines in Hyde Park to watch Pink Floyd relive their glorious past, alongside Elton John (and his friend Pete), The Who, Paul McCartney, Mariah Carey, Velvet Revolver, and the brief appearance of Senegalese superstar Youssou N'Dour with Dido. A nation sat glued to their television screens.

However, at the bottom of a disused quarry in Cornwall, the cream of African talent had assembled to party in their own right. The venue was the fabulous Eden Project (Bio-domes, eco friendly buildings, plants, and co-founder and Chief Executive Tim Smit ? what more could one ask for?) and the occasion was brought about because of the distinct lack of African musicians at any of the other events. Youssou N'Dour was single-handedly trying to make up for it by flying from Hyde Park, to Eden, to Paris, but even his remarkable stamina wasn't enough. What the world needed was a proper African music celebration, and they got it at the Eden Project with bells on. And for anyone that was lucky enough to be there, it was an occasion that they will never forget. It is where many people believed the heart of Live 8 lay and where the real voices of Africa could be heard.

"It was a moment of magic and madness," Tim Smit recalls. "Magic because it worked, madness because the odds against it were huge." Tim goes on to recall that Live 8 was in rough water in certain quarters. He called WOMAD director Thomas Brooman, who in turn spoke to Peter Gabriel, who arranged a meeting with Midge Ure (who was helping Geldof organise Live 8). "Peter spoke to Youssou N'Dour who agreed to join him as the joint band co-ordinator, and also suggested the name 'Africa Calling'. Peter and Thomas agreed on the ideal line up and although some of them were unavailable we got almost everyone we wanted."

"It was wonderful that so many African musicians were willing to join us at such short notice," says Peter Gabriel. "The artists felt that it was really important that Live 8 had a strong African musical presence."

Artists appearing alongside Youssou N'Doour et Le Super Etoile were Angelique Kidjo, Thomas Mapfumo, Tinariwen, Mariza, Kanda Bongo Man, Geoffrey Oreyema, Emmanuel Jal, Daara J, and many others. For many it was the first time that they had visited the Eden Project: "I loved walking in the African jungle in the middle of the English countryside!" recalls Angelique Kidjo, whose rousing 'Agolo' appears on the Africa Calling CD. Peter recalls that 'the transition from the English air into the warm, humid, tropical zone was repeated on the stage. The music was soulful, proud and generous and it was great to have been surrounded by it.'

For Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni of celebrated Tuareg band Tinariwen it was also somewhat of a culture shock: "If a nomad from the plains of the Tamesna [in the Southern Sahara where I was born] were to take a helicopter and fly directly to the Eden Project, he'd think he was in paradise. He wouldn't be able to believe it was real. This is one of the most beautiful places we've ever played in."

The logistics of setting up and running the event were considerable, and Tim Smit remembers that sheer number of phone calls he had to make "asking for help of every description. We even borrowed a jet to get Youssou and the Super Etoiles back to Paris for their gig. The Eden, WOMAD, and Real World teams worked around the clock. There were visas to fix, 40,000 ticket applications (when we only had a capacity for 5,000), plus hundreds of press, radio, TV stations and film crews."

Peter Gabriel and Johnny Kalsi of the Dhol Foundation (and the Afro Celts) were the hard working Masters of Ceremonies who ad libbed and cajoled for the whole day without a break, making sure that everyone from superstar to backing musician and road crew were looked after properly. ?Although the organising was exhausting and chaotic,? says Peter, ?once people arrived on site, everyone without exception was determined to make it work, and make it work well.?

"The whole thing felt effortless and important," says Tim. "There were no hissy fits, no tantrums, just respect for an event that had meaning for everyone present: the most important of all ? that we are all the same under our skins."

This special compilation was lovingly compiled from many hours of recordings, with the prime goal of representing the musical highlights of that special day. One of the shining examples was Angelique Kidjo who bounced around the stage with a huge smile on her face, clearly pleased to be able to share the occasion with so many of her friends. "The Africa Calling concert was crucial because it showed that the African people are not just numbers or victims, but also that they are an active and creative force. Nobody on that day watching at the other Live 8 shows around the Western world could have grasped that reality."

This is a sentiment echoed by Zimbabwe's Thomas Mapfumo, whose remarkable afternoon performance drew the sun out as well as bringing a smile to everyone's faces. "I hope that taking part in Africa Calling will start a long overdue dialogue that will unite us as musicians in raising our voices to a cause that we only have felt too well. The event showed what happens when we speak as one."

Highlights were too numerous to mention, but as the afternoon drew to a close, Kanda Bongo Man revitalised lagging legs with the perfect Congolese party set, and as the sun finally rested it's weary head the Eden light show came into full effect, the Bio Domes pulsing to the beat of every drum. It was left to the youngsters to carry the African Hip Hop vibe, showcasing the future of African music with Sudanese ex-child soldier Emmanuel Jal, and Senegalese stars Daara J.

"My most abiding memory?" Tim Smit stops and tries to recall. "It's horribly personal," he says finally. "My great friend Richard Sandbrook, the co-founder of Friends Of The Earth who passed away soon after, his hands swivelling like helicopters in excitement saying "Tim, it makes you believe we really can change the world," and he meant it. What a day, what a privilege and memory that will stay with me 'til my dying day."

Thomas Mapfumo flew in especially for the concert from the States - his adopted home since he was forced into exile from Zimbabwe. Aside from championing a wonderful new album he's also become a goodwill Ambassador for Mwana Ndi Mai - a non-profit organisation who help provide support for Zimbabwe's 'invisible children' (orphans and families of musicians who have succumbed to HIV/AIDS).

"It was a great feeling to see so many people," he remembers. "You couldn't help but appreciate all the effort involved. It was an honour to be there. I only wished the stage was in Zimbabwe, or somewhere where the people whom we are trying to help could see the effort being made on their behalf. Maybe soon. My people do not have television sets, and my greatest wish was that they could have seen it."

Reviews

  • Brilliant... A recording which builds in energy and emotion For many people, last year's Live 8 concert at the Eden Project in Cornwall was superior in every way to the celeb-packed mainstream gig staged in London. Judging from this brilliant live CD, it's hard to disagree. Featuring such superstars as Youssou N'Dour, Angelique Kidjo, Mariza and Tinariwen, it's a recording which builds in energy and emotion as the disc progresses. Daily Express (UK)
  • "What's Up, Cornwall?' If there were ever any doubts that more African musicians deserved to be on the main stage in London last year, this canter through Live 8's West Country fringe date blows them all away. Youssou N'Dour, the only one of the bunch to play both concerts, is on imperious form. But Mozambique-born fado diva Mariza runs him a close second, with a performance that typically combines sophistication with earthiness....Next time, let's not allow so much talent to be shoved onto the sidelines. The Sunday Times (UK)
  • Rich and Exuberant! Live8 at Eden garnered some faint praise at the time, but from the sound of this recording, it was more fun than the Hyde Park gig. Assembled at short notice by the Eden Project's Tim Smit, Womad's Thomas Brooman and friends such as Peter Gabriel and Youssou N'Dour, the Eden Project concert was an organisational triumph as well as a musical one. And it's good to have a multi-artist disc of such richness, from the exuberant hip-hop of Daara J to the spine-chilling guitar-trance of Tinariwen; from the undulating mbira of Chartwell Dutiro to the irrepressible Congolese strut of Kanda Bongo Man. There are no weak spots. Africa Calling isn't just a right-on purchase, but a fine collection of contemporary world music. The Guardian (UK)
  • Live album released on the 1st Anniversary of Live 8 A valiant, last-minute attempt to compensate for the lack of African artists at Live8, Peter Gabriel's Africa Calling concert drew an astonishing amount of flak.... One year on, this live record is a chance to assess the event on purely musical terms.... The bigger stars, such as Mariza, Tinariwen and Thomas Mapfumo, come out of it very well, while lesser-known performers such as Somali diva Maryam Mursal and Algerian violinist Akim El Sikameya provide delightful surprises. The Telegraph (UK)