14 February 2011 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Singing while saving Africa

I made a joke about looking forward to watching Bono sing in Africa rather than save Africa. But that was before I went to the U2 concert in Joburg last night. Instead I watched Bono sing WHILE saving Africa - and a couple of other places too.

Soccer City and South Africa continue to shine in the big events arena. The concert was awesome. It was also pop-culture-political as Bono and his boys dished out big songs with large dollops of social conscience. And the crowd of a 100 000 South Africans ate it up, myself included.

I wouldn’t expect anything less from Bono who, over the last few years, has cultivated his image of rock-star activist, campaigning for third-world debt relief, raising awareness about the Aids epidemic and calling for action in support of democracy and freedom.

There are no creative, innovative, hopeful Africans allowed in this brand of activism though, unless you’re Desmond Tutu or Nelson Mandela of course. A bit cynical and, a little unfair? Perhaps.

But during the concert, a video of Nelson Mandela’s speech calling for “a united South Africa” was played on the big screen right before Bono sang “In The Name Of Love”. We roared appreciatively when Desmond Tutu’s video message came on and sang along to “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. Only I forget what message went with that particular song - was it linked to freedom and democracy in Burma? Music, morality, marketing? The lines get a little blurred.

We all know Bono raises lots of money and is probably perfectly sincere in his efforts to help Africa - and a few other places (despite the fact that a lot of money is spent on an amazing set and multi-media performance to make sure we know just how sincere he is).

In fairness, his optimism made us feel engaged and proud to be South African (albeit of the decidedly middle class kind). He even called us the future - so he’s on the right track.

And despite the fact that he has managed to commodify social conscience in a particularly entertaining and accessible way, he put on a truely incredible show.

But my favourite part of the evening was when Hugh Masekela joined Bono on stage for ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’. It was good to have a South African on the stage with him. I think we’ll get a bit closer to finding what we’re looking for that way.

U2’s music and performance was great - but most of the incredible change and growth in South Africa over the last few years has come from within. We should sing our own praises more often, instead of waiting for someone else to sing them for us, no matter how well.

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