Africa Day Benefit Concert: Fighting COVID-19 in One Voice

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Yinka Olatunbosun reports on the Africa Day Benefit Concert hosted by the British actor, Idris Elba, on Black Entertainment Television to raise funds in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Africa restated her music prowess and love for humanity recently with the Africa Day Benefit Concert hosted by the British actor, Idris Elba, on Black Entertainment Television (BET). The show which was streamed on BET YouTube channel and broadcast on BET cable channel afterwards paraded the some of the best of Africa’s music talents who performed their songs from the comfort of their homes and recording studios. It was such a delight to watch these artists perform for a charitable cause- to raise funds towards the fight against Covid-19 pandemic. The proceeds of the concert would be donated to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The performances were short and spicy for the most part with goodwill messages from top celebrities in Africa and Hollywood. Ludacris, Rita Ora, Sean Paul, Kirk Franklin, Fat Joe, Spike Lee, Orlando Jones, Marques Houston, Toke Makinwa, Anthony Hamilton, Yvonne Orji, Jidenna and Dr. Alban and the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame turned up the heat on the show with their invigorating messages, urging all to stay safe and strong. On their part, the music stars displayed varied styles. Some delivered solemn tracks while others couldn’t help but recreate a semblance of their stage performances. Davido was one of the early performers. Clad in black kaftan, he delivered a heartfelt track in the studio and that mood was quickly contrasted by South Africa’s Bonang Matheba who had very colourful costume and back up dancers who performed from their various locations with the same energy as they would at paid concerts. Soothing vocals came from Congo’s Fally Ipupa and Kenya’s Sauti Sol who gave an acoustic version of their song, “Insecure.”

Timi Dakolo belted a moving track, “There’s A Cry” featuring Cobhams Asuquo. who also provided a piano accompaniment. After M.ANIFEST’s performance all the way from Ghana, Adekunle Gold surfaced on the screen, looking quite unrecognizable with his heavy beard to perform “Jore.” The duet performance by South Africa’s Busiswa and Niniola was interesting as Busiswa put her best foot forward literally and figuratively while Nini seemed to be low in spirit that Busiswa had to prompt her, “Nini sing!” to scale up the one-sided showmanship. Teni’s vocals in “Uyo Meyo” was threatened by cold but she managed a very tidy delivery in spite of herself.

But the multiple Grammy award-winning Angelique Kidjo sang “Wombolombo” without the microphone following a simple performance by Rema, who looked like a boy next door with his white t-shirt, stripped of the usual bling. The legendary Salif Keita sang his “Coronavirus” track following Uganda’s Bebe Cool’s emotional track , “I love you everyday” which featured the artist’s daughter and a tour of his home.

In his velvety voice, Reekado Banks hit the studio with an acoustic version of “Part 2” while StoneBwoy gave us the reggae vibe with “Strength and Hope”. Seun Kuti alongside his masked up band members delivered his conscious Afrobeat songs shortly after Afro B’s Johanna and the duet to die for, Shekere by Yemi Alade and Angelique Kidjo. The phenomenal multi-instrumentalist and singer, Ismael Lo from Senegal proved to be a formidable one-man band as he performed with his neck-fastened harmonica and piano. South Africa’s Nasty C brought an Eminem persona on stage with his delivery of “There They Go” in eye-catching designer wears. The US based South African comedian and TV show host, Trevor Noah introduced Burna Boy, the self-acclaimed African Giant who was the last to perform, thus putting a seal on the argument on his superiority which has sparked some ‘beef’ on social media recently. The video mixes also added some aesthetic quality to the home concert.

The show is memorable as it ignites memories of its antecedents in history such as 1985 Live Aid to raise funds for Ethiopian famine. This is unique because the artists are isolated from the audience which is why FALZ’s message is quite instructive. He advised Africans on social distancing thus: “Let’s all work together to stay apart.” For the American-Nigerian rapper, it was a moment to reinstate his identity as an African.

“I’m an African not because I was born in Africa but Africa was born in me,” he said. May 25th has been set aside as Africa Day and is considered as the annual commemoration of Africa’s independence, freedom and liberation strife from colonial imperialists.

The Rwandan President, Paul Kagame in his philosophical perspective also declared that the antidote for this pandemic is “caring for one another.”