Writings of the general word's body

Monday, May 26, 2008

Africa Day in Trafalgar Square

Next to Miriam Makeba is her grand-daughter.

The 11-year-old percussionist is Makeba's great-grandson.

Later today, Trafalgar Square will rock to the beats of Africa, come rain or shine (likely rain, as last year) for Africa Day. With the shocking news and images coming out of South Africa, my heart is not exactly warm towards the so-called Rainbow Nation just now. But I don't suppose I can blame its greatest singer, Miriam Makeba for that, and so I thought I'd blog my pics from last year's Africa Day in Trafalgar Square. The weather was horrible on the day, but I told my sons: this may be your one and only chance - your very last chance - to see Miriam Makeba (who came out of retirement to play the free gig) in the flesh. And so we dressed up warm, I took my umbrella and off we went to Trafalgar Square. We were pounded and soaked to the bone by rain, all day. But no one there minded once Mama Africa came out. Certainly not my sons, who thanked me afterwards for taking them to see the legend. Performing with Makeba on the day were her grand-daughter; the brilliant percussionist, only 11, was the singer's great-grandson. One of Makeba's favourite backing vocalists, Innocent, who in the old girl's words is "not so innocent" also featured.

Last Thursday evening I was on a radio programme, African Essence, on Resonance FM, presented by Debbie Golt. Kadija George and I were on the show to promote the upcoming Word From Africa programme. Debbie Golt is an amazing source of what's happening in Africa London, mentioning on the airwaves in passing lots of events even I didn't know of. It was thanks to something she said on air that I discovered that Manu Dibango will now headline today's celebration (replacing Les Amazones de Guinée who could not get visas to get into Britain to perform for the Trafalgar Square crowd... same old story of the visa humiliation of the African artist wanting to enter the UK to perform... officially, Les Amazones de Guinée can't come because of "circumstances beyond their control"... ).

Also on the programme are: Bassekou Kouyate, Kanda Bongo Man, Busi Ncube, Emmanuel Jal, Inemo Afrobeat Experience, Kaago Drummers, Black Eagles Dancers, DJ Rita Ray and DJ Eric Soul.

Africa Day in Trafalgar Square is a legacy of Ken Livingstone's Mayoral vision, and this year's celebration was already programmed before he lost the London election. With Boris Johnson as Mayor now, I don't suppose a celebration of African culture and music will be high on his agenda. It may not be far-fetched to think that Africa Day in Trafalgar Square will die a quiet death in a few short years...

  • Images taken by MW in Trafalgar Square, London, on 28 May 2007.

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