Pop stars unite for Band Aid 30 charity song

Some of today’s biggest pop acts, including One Direction and Ed Sheeran, will lend their voices to a charity single aimed at raising money for the Ebola crisis. What impact will it have?

Thirty years ago, the activist and song-writer Bob Geldof was watching television, when a news report from famine-struck Ethiopia flashed before him. He was so moved by the scenes of thousands of starving people that he decided something had to be done. With help from some of the biggest names in music, the now famous charity single, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ was born.

The Band Aid classic made music history. The song flew straight to number one in the charts and became, for a time, the biggest-selling single in the UK, raising £8m for Ethiopia in the process.

This week, Geldof announced that the song will be re-released for a fourth time, to raise money for those suffering with Ebola in West Africa. Lyrics will be tweaked to focus on the disease, rather than hunger, and the song will be available to download for 99p next Monday.

It will feature some of today’s biggest-selling British pop acts, among them One Direction, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Adele, Emeli Sandé and Ellie Goulding. Bands Bastille and Mercury prize-winning Elbow are also taking part, along with Coldplay and Bono.

Geldof was spurred into action after receiving a call from the UN, who say more aid is desperately needed to combat the spread of Ebola. The outbreak has so far killed more than 4,500 people, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, and is, in the words of Geldof, a 'sickening' illness that ‘renders humans untouchable.’

Despite the original song’s huge success, not everyone is a fan. The singer Morrissey once described it as a ‘daily torture on the people of England’. But its likeability factor is beside the point, according to Geldof: ‘It really doesn’t matter if you hate this song or the artists involved, you have to buy this thing,’ he urged.

Starry-eyed?

Not everybody thinks a revival of the song is such a good idea. ‘Patronising, cringe-inducing and outrageously offensive’, is how one critic described the original single, and many agree that it reinforces damaging stereotypes of Africans. The song will not encourage any real understanding of Ebola, or the political complexity behind the issue. This is just a chance for celebrities to boost their popularity — and record sales.

Others disagree. What does it matter whether people understand the underlying issues, as long as they dig into their wallets and donate? Besides, it is possible to enjoy the song and celebrity element while becoming better informed about Ebola. The UN would not have contacted Geldof had they not thought that pop star power could motivate people, and if governments were already sending enough aid. This song could make a real difference.

You Decide

  1. Will you buy the new Band Aid single?
  2. Is it more important to have an understanding of an issue behind a good cause or just to donate money to it?

Activities

  1. Write and perform your own hit single to raise money for charity. Make sure your lyrics accurately reflect the cause you are aiming to support.
  2. Write a speech which explains the causes of Ebola and provide well-researched arguments for why the world must do more to stop the spread of the disease.

Some People Say...

“Music can’t change the world.’Bob Geldof”

What do you think?

Q & A

Great news. I’m a huge One Direction fan.
That’s all well and good, but you should also use this as an opportunity to learn about Ebola, and make sure you know where the money you donate is going. Thousands of children have been left orphaned by the disease and entire communities and economies have been ravaged. It’s important that by focusing on the music and celebrities, we do not forget about the suffering.
What else is being done?
A public appeal has already resulted in over £10m in donations from the British public, and the government has pledged £205m in aid to Sierra Leone, a member of the Commonwealth which gained independence from Britain in 1961. Hundreds of military personnel have also been sent to run treatment centres. Despite this, the UN warns that more aid is required.

Word Watch

News report
BBC journalist Michael Buerk's shocking report on his visit to Ethiopia was later transmitted by more than 400 television stations worldwide. Buerk described the scenes as the ‘closest thing to hell on earth.’
Ethiopia
The famine led to over a million deaths. It was caused by record low-rainfall, but made worse by misguided government policies and two decades of war.
Biggest names
The 1984 original featured the voices of George Michael, Bono, Duran Duran and Bananarama among many others.
Fourth time
It was re-recorded again in 1989 and again in 2004, featuring Jamelia, Ms Dynamite and Will Young, as well as a rap from Dizzee Rascal and instrumentals from Radiohead to raise money for war-torn Darfur in Sudan.
Untouchable
Ebola is spread through bodily fluids, like blood, vomit and sweat. This means that some infected people have been shunned and avoided by communities, families and friends, concerned about contracting and spreading the deadly disease. The most extreme estimates suggest that Ebola could affect 1.4m in Liberia and Sierra Leone by the end of January.

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