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The Song Remains the Same


This one, pretty much, is the pits.

The U.K.-based Oxfam—a vital nongovernmental organization in its own right, no doubt about it—announced today that a new musical collection titled Songs for Sudan “has been released to raise money for the work Oxfam is doing to help the victims of the conflict” in the Darfur states of the Sudan. (“New album released to raise money for Sudan crisis,” Oxfam GB Press Release, Sept. 3.)


No beefs with Oxfam’s longstanding work in the Sudan and the neighboring states affected by the real crises in Africa. No beefs with Oxfam’s work there now. My goodness no.

(For another outstanding website devoted to humanitarian concerns from around the world—and not just the ones that American presidential administrations manage to push into the daily news cycles, either—see the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and its special website, ReliefWeb.)

But with the 30-day reassessment of the Government in Khartoum’s compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1556 (July 30), under which Security Council-imposed sanctions remain a distinct possibility, as well as a more militarized response; with the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, telling the Security Council just yesterday—the very same day that U.S. airstrikes on a residential neighborhood in the Iraqi city of Fallujah killed 20, please note well—that the situation in the Darfur states is “critical,” that the “essential message of resolution 1556″ was that “it was the responsibility of the Government to protect its people against attacks and violations of human rights,” but that the Government has not disarmed “all militias, including the Janjaweed,” and the “Government has not been able to resolve the crisis in Darfur, and has not met some of the core commitments it has made” (Press Release SC/8180, Sept. 2, 2004), leading all of the members of the “failed-state” and “duty-to-intervene” chorus this side of decolonialization to chirp, “Here’s one;” for the celebrated Oxfam to release an Internet-downloadable collection of songs “for Sudan” (i.e., for 7.99 pounds, as today’s press release reminds us, with five pounds going “directly to Oxfam Sudan appeal, which could provide 15 people with clean drinking water”) timed to coincide with the aforementioned proceedings and the threat or use of force lurking immediately behind them, is about as low as an humanitarian-relief and charitable organization can go. Unconscionable. Tell me it ain’t so.

I mean, try to imagine the colonizer-colonized mental typology that is at work here. The culture industry of the English-speaking world enlisting on the side of what by all appearances is a neocolonial undertaking in the grand style. Not that the great Anglo-American Empire wants to invade and take over. Hardly. Instead, what they want above all is to make an example of the Sudan. A spectacle.—See these people who take to horseback, kill and rape and drive each other off their ancestral lands? Look at them! Their government can’t even put a stop to it.—Correction: Won’t put a stop to it, having played a major role in causing the carnage.

(But, who just bombed Fallujah? Who just ended the siege of Najaf? How about Kufa? Who keeps attacking the so-called Sadr City area of greater Baghdad? And who besieged Fallujah before this? Cleansed Port-au-Prince of that Catholic priest? And tried to cleanse Caracas of that FoC—”Friend of Castro”? Who invaded Iraq, after all? Afghanistan? Who is threatening—and exerting pressure behind the scenes to pull it off—to place the Iranian nuclear program—and therefore the regime in Tehran—on the Security Council’s agenda this fall, whatever the International Atomic Energy Agency finds? Or in the two Koreas, for Christ’s sake.)

((Shssh. Don’t bother the International Community with these. It’s busy. Switch back to what matters. Talk about the government in Africa that can’t protect its own people. Especially from itself. And why. “The situation in Sudan is one that cannot be ignored” (The Futureheads, whoever they are). “By buying this album, you help people save lives” (in the words of an Oxfam spokesperson quoted by the Press Association (“Songs for Sudan Appeal Out Today,” Sept. 3). There. That’s better.))

To say it again: The culture industry of the English-speaking world enlisting—less on the side of an humanitarian emergency, than on the side of how the U.S.-U.K. leadership has packaged it within the neocolonial project. White Europeans lecturing and admonishing Black Africans to get their shit together. Worse, Arab Black Africans. (Works even better, when the White Europeans are Black Africans. Photogenic. And—as they say—”avuncular.” As in the case of the serving UN Secretary-General, for example.)

Hmmm. Now let me see. Where in history have we come across this sort of thing before—these “defense mechanisms,” this “substantification of the attitudes of the [neo]colonizing power,” this marking off of the “area of culture” by “fences and signposts”?

Here’s one: USAID: Darfur Humanitarian Emergency. And another: Sudan: The Passion of the Present. (For a third, return to the top.)

“[N]ow it is time to denounce certain pharisees,” Fanon urged in his 1959 speech before the Congress of Black African Writers (“Reciprocal Bases of National Culture and the Fight for Freedom“), alluding to one version or another of those who in our day style themselves “internationalists” and “cosmopolitans.” (For one of the worst cases of this—and note the source—see Jürgen Habermas, “Letter to America,” The Nation, Dec. 16, 2002.)

National consciousness, which is not nationalism, is the only thing that will give us an international dimension. This problem of national consciousness and of national culture takes on in Africa a special dimension. The birth of national consciousness in Africa has a strictly contemporaneous connection with the African consciousness. The responsibility of the African as regards national culture is also a responsibility with regard to African-Negro culture. This joint responsibility is not the fact of a metaphysical principle but the awareness of a simple rule which wills that every independent nation in an Africa where colonialism is still entrenched is an encircled nation, a nation which is fragile and in permanent danger.

Those were the days. Huh? An affirmation of identity such as this is (roughly, give or take a few millimeters) the opposite of the kind of negation of the same practiced among the neocolonial community on behalf of the struggling peoples of this region of Africa.

But we didn’t need a century or two of exploitation to do the trick. These days, it happens almost overnight.

The Sudan (map)
UN Security Council Resolution 1556 (alternative weblink), July 30, 2004
Crisis in Darfur—Not to Mention the Left (Again),” ZNet Blogs, July 30

FYA (“For your archives”): Am depositing here (a) five additional weblinks to what academics like to call postcolonial studies (and similar honorific titles betraying a penchant for prefixes). Incidentally, for the sake of full disclosure, I should add that the term ‘postcolonial‘ throws me for a loop every time I encounter it—but even more today than it did years ago. Maybe it’s the prefix, ‘post-’? That could be. Though one never can be absolutely certain. As is postmodern, poststructuralism, post-Cold War, and so on. It’s not that these terms don’t mean anything. It’s just that they seldom mean what their practitioners think they mean—and must mean, in order make their particular crafts possible. Still, it seems to me that it is high-time for the laborers in this academic field to throw of the yokes and break the chains of postcolonial studies, and to recognize, at long last, that the one true growth market stretching out ahead of them isn’t postcolonial studies at all. Rather, it’s neocolonial studies. After all, aren’t we living in the middle of a neocolonial world? At least in the recent past and for the foreseeable future?

After these important links, I’ll deposit (b) two current news reports on the release of Oxfam’s Songs for Sudan collection.

Postcolonial Studies Website, Deepika Bahri et al., Emory University, USA (Though I’d go straight to the “Contents” webpage.)

Colonial & Postcolonial Literary Dialogues, Allen Carey-Webb et al., Western Michigan University, USA

Post-Colonial News and Literary Studies, Josette Jacques et al., University of Bourgogne, France

Contemporary Postcolonial & Postimperial Literature in English, George Landow et al., National University of Singapore

The Imperial Archive, Leon Litvack et al., Queen’s University of Belfast, Ireland

(B)

Agence France Presse — English
September 3, 2004 Friday 7:31 AM GMT
HEADLINE: R.E.M., other music stars donate tracks for Darfur relief album
DATELINE: LONDON Sept 3

Music stars from both sides of the Atlantic have laid down tracks for a new compilation album to raise money for victims of conflict in Darfur, western Sudan, the relief agency Oxfam said Friday.

David Gray, R.E.M., Badly Drawn Boy, Jet, Ash, Futureheads and Faithless are among the artists who have contributed to “Songs for Sudan”, the proceeds of which will go towards Oxfam’s efforts in the troubled region.

“Men, women and children are still dying everyday in Sudan,” said Damon Gough, who records under the name Badly Drawn Boy.

“People like us might not have the power to stop the violence but at least we can try and help the people who are affected by it,” he said.

The album will be available in Britain only as an Internet download on www.bignoisemusic.com for 7.99 pounds (11.80 euros, 14.30 dollars), with five pounds going directly to the Oxfam Sudan appeal.

Oxfam said that five pounds would be enough to provide 15 people with clean drinking water.

The United Nations estimates that between 30,000 and 50,000 people have died in the midst of a rebellion in Darfur, with more than a million others displaced from their homes and a further 180,000 now refugees in Chad.

The Independent (London)
September 3, 2004, Friday
SECTION: First Edition; NEWS; Pg. 9
HEADLINE: PRIMAL SCREAM AND REM LEND SONGS TO SUDAN APPEAL ALBUM
BYLINE: CIAR BYRNE MEDIA CORRESPONDENT
HIGHLIGHT: Michael Stipe of REM, which has provided Come Together’ Toby Melville/Reuters

SOME OF the biggest names in music, including REM, Primal Scream and David Gray, have joined forces with Oxfam to raise money for the crisis in Sudan.

Oxfam has followed in the footsteps of ventures such as Band Aid and War Child to produce a charity album.

Songs For Sudan features 14 tracks, including exclusive songs from Badly Drawn Boy, Jet and Ash.

“Men, women and children are still dying every day in Sudan,” said Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy.

“People like us might not have the power to stop the violence there, but at least we can try and help people who are affected by it.”

The artists have all agreed to forgo royalties from the pounds 7.99 album, of which pounds 5 will go directly to Oxfam’s Sudan appeal.

To save production costs, the album will only be available via a music download from www.bignoisemusic.com.

Each album purchased will pay for clean drinking water for 15 people.

Oxfam is already helping a quarter of a million people in refugee camps in Darfur, western Sudan, where fighting has led millions of people to flee their homes, and in neighbouring Chad.

The charity’s focus is on providing clean water and sanitation and hygiene training. Conditions in Chad, where more refugees are still arriving, are steadily deteriorating and there is a real threat of a cholera outbreak.

“The album arose from a conversation between Oxfam and different artists about what they could do to have an impact on the situation,” said a spokesman for the charity.

“The idea was quite simple. It was to try to do something that will enable other people to do something for Sudan,” he added. The project was turned around in less than a month, in a rapid reaction to the scale of the disaster.

The UN estimates that up to 50,000 people have died since the conflict began in Darfur in February 2003, when rebel forces took up arms in protest against alleged discrimination by the Khartoum government.

Oxfam’s Sudan appeal has already raised pounds 4m in public donations – one of the charity’s most successful appeals ever.

In 1995, the War Child charity raised pounds 1.25m for children in war-torn former Yugoslavia when it released the Help album, featuring tracks by acts including Radiohead, the Stone Roses, Blur and Oasis.

SONGS FOR SUDAN

Decent Days and Nights

The Futureheads

Starcrossed (Acoustic)

Ash

The Lifting – Live

REM

Come Together (BBG Mix)

Primal Scream

All over this town

The Upper Room

Bashment Boogie

Roots Manuva

Club Foot (jagz kooner remix edit)

Kasabian

Shrimp

Mr. Scruff

I want 2

Ty Promised Land

Paddy Casey

Cigarettes and Cola

Jet

All Comes True

Tom Baxter

Ballad of Easy Rider

Kathryn Williams

Static in The City

Hope of the States

Everything Will Be Alright Tomorrow

Faithless

Baltimore (Randy Newman cover at 2003 V Festival)

David Gray Slow Jam

Four Tet

Celebrate

Badly Drawn Boy

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