Darfur has millions murdered so let's dance our troubles away
When spring finally returned, it seemed like a good time to appreciate the nicer weather at an outdoor show. Columbia University was having a benefit show last Saturday so that seemed like one of the best ways to take advantage of some sun and warmth. I hadn't been there in a while and that seemed like another good excuse to go. The campus itself has a lovely outdoor area with classically designed buildings gracefully surrounding a large quad area with greeneries to lie on and long rows of steps to lounge on. The student body took advantage of this, showing up in force, with some even setting up hookas and sliding pools to celebrate the new season.
First up was The Dub Trio who nicely sum themselves up with their name and have a good feel for the music they play. Even live, they were able to mix the sound effects, drop-outs and echoes that makes up the style's richest music, even though they were compelled to start a few songs off with a blast of hardcore (to clear the decks maybe).
After their set was over, they started packing up and someone took the stage, presumably to make some sort of announcement about the show. Whatever mellow, spacey vibes that the band left, he was there for another reason. This was Simon Deng of American Anti-Slavery Group and he told the crowd about the situation in Darfur, Sudan today. It was a eye-opening, especially because most of the mainstream news outlets didn't cover this and didn't seem to care about this otherwise.
In my country, if you are not Muslim, you are not human... The militias slaughter millions but we know they are just tools of the government there.... The United Nations does nothing about the torture, rape, crime happening there- they are guilty of silence and they condone what is taking place there.... Three and a half million people have been slaughtered now. The Arab world is part of the problem- Khartoum gets assistance from every single Arab country. They ask for resolutions
about Palestine all the time but they do nothing to stop this.
I am in a suit but I used to be a slave- I was owned by another human being. I am a victim... My young girl was raped right in front of my eyes. I am mad.
You couldn't listen to works like that and not be moved and horrified. I also felt cheated. I'm a news hawk but a lot of this was new to me: World News Tonight, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, Chris Matthews Show, CNN were all telling me more than what I needed to know about Pope John Paul but nothing about this genocide. Is it not in their interest because this is Africa, which they probably consider a perpetual mess? Is it not in our (American) government's interest because there's no oil there?
Even before there was time to contemplate, Antibalas were ready to perform. The dozen or so members of this Brooklyn band play Fela Kuti's Afrobeat music better than anyone else today. Granted that's not a large field but they beat Fela's son Femi as well as Fela drummer Tony Allen's recent bands. Singer Abraham Amayo is a good ranter and the band had the extended jams down but what was missing was the ego and vision of a leader like Fela himself to make this good band into a great band.
Dozens of people were dancing up front during their set but I still couldn't get Deng's words out of my head. Antibalas were there for the express purpose of supporting his cause but could that be pushed aside so quickly to celebrate? Maybe this was the only rational way to deal with stories of such horror. Maybe it's best to think of it as a celebration of life against the death and depths of human cruelty that Deng spoke of. Organizers went around to collect donations for Deng's group and I was glad to donate. Other than dancing our troubles away, I hoped that they could make the rest of the world listen since too few people were speaking up about this.
If you'd like to do your part to help, one place to start is Modiba Production's fine benefit CD ASAP: the Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project (which includes Antibalas and Tony Allen). Just like at the Columbia show, you can dance away your (and others') troubles away.