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One World Beat News

Switzerland: United Against Malaria concert in Geneva

While One World Beat strongly supports any musical endeavor that aims to raise money for charity, what we really appreciate -- and aspire to emulate -- is a
benefit concert event that provides just the right balance between entertaining, fundraising and creating awareness. That was the case on October 8th in Geneva, Switzerland for the sold-out United Against Malaria concert featuring Youssou N'Dour & Friends (including late addition Peter Gabriel).

As the evening got underway, the emphasis was on entertainment: an early showstopper featured Senegalese supserstar (and UNICEF ambassador) N'Dour in a flowing black robe, alone on the mic performing a powerful African song. N'Dour has experience with this kind of show -- and this particular issue: He organized an "Africa Live" anti-malaria concert in his home town of Dakar in March. Rokia Traoré, a 20-year-old star from Mali followed with a mellow acoustic set that brought soul to the lackluster gymnasium-like surroundings of the Geneva Arena. Her song "Kele Mani" reportedly means "bitter is the conflict." Then Brazilian singer (and culture minister) Gilberto Gil took the stage to sing "No Woman No Cry" an obligatory few minutes of Bob Marley that nonetheless sent a shimmer through the 8,000-strong crowd. N'Dour returned with Neneh Cherry of Sweden for their 1994 smash hit "Seven Seconds" which got hands waving.

Still, by this point, audience members could be forgiven for not being overly aware that this was a concert with a serious side. That began to change with the performance of beguiling Belgian singer-songwriter Axelle Red, who is also a UNICEF ambassador. After a jaunty duet with Swiss singer Stephan Eicher, Red took to the piano to talk about the suffering children she has met and to sing a song inspired by a young boy who asked her to write a song about his sister, a landmine victim. While a bit off topic as far as the malaria
concert was concerned, it did set a somber tone.

Carrying on from there was Peter Gabriel, in excellent vocal form (displaying none of the rasp that has nagged him in recent years) duetting with Indonesian singer Anggun for "Don't Give Up" and with N'Dour on the former Genesis member's biggest hit "In Your Eyes." He also sang "Biko," a song about South African anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko who was tortured and killed in 1977.

Gabriel then departed and in his wake came more from Anggun and Eicher as well as American Patti Austin with a wonderful a capella version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and a rousing "You Gotta Be."

To cap off the evening and really drive home the benefit's message, N'Dour returned -- and eventually all the participants joined him on stage -- for "Fight Malaria," a song with the refrain "Fight malaria/it's so serious/clean up your area/keep out mosquitos."

Was this blunt message needed? Probably so: One audience member interviewed on TV said he thought malaria had already been eradicated. That's hardly the case: Up to 500 million people a year get the mosquito-borne disease and two to three million die from it, 90 percent of them in Africa, according to Reuters. An estimated 3,000 children die daily from malaria worldwide, a toll which the UN hopes to halve by 2010. N'Dour told the audience that the money raised from the event would be enough to buy 50,000 bednets. The insecticide-treated nets, an effective way of combatting the disease, will reportedly go to highly affected coastal areas in Tanzania.

Making a surprise appearance towards the end of the concert, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan gave the receptive audience a pat on the back coupled with a plea: "Don't go home and forget it," he said. "You are the united nations."

Plain and simple, the event was the embodiment of the One World Beat motto:
Music Making a Difference.

Patrick Riley
Vice president
One World Beat


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"You guys Rock."
Leigh Blake, Founder - Keep A Child Alive