Band Aid is a UK charity that first emerged in the holiday season of 1984 with the single “Do They Know It’s Christmas” featuring a variety of artists – U2, David Bowie, George Michael, and other popular artists of that decade. Back then, the goal was to raise money for those suffering from famine in Ethiopia.
A new campaign from the charity called Band Aid 30 – named in honor of the charity’s thirtieth anniversary – and features a re-recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” But this time with artists like One Direction, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Chris Martin of Coldplay, and returning artists like Bono from U2. It was released on Sunday night, after being featured for the first time on The X Factor. Within minutes of the feature, it raised over a million quid.
Of course, Band Aid isn’t the only charity that has used the power of music for a good cause. In 1985, an American equivalent called “We Are the World” was recorded to help fight African Famine, and in 2010 rerecorded with recent artists to raise money for the devastation in Haiti. “We Are the World” was praised for being more racially inclusive than the fundraising single that came before it.
The new recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas” features some key lyric changes, mainly of those that came under fire and criticism the first time that the album was released. The line “where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears” is replaced with “where a kiss of love can kill you, and there’s death in every tear,” assumingly to be more fitting to the cause they’re raising awareness for. The line “there won’t be snow in Africa” is changed to “no peace and joy this Christmas in West Africa — the only hope they’ll have is being alive.” And the line “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you” is rightly changed to a more sympathetic line, “well tonight we’re reaching out and touching you.”
But even with these changes, the campaign is still under criticism for painting Africa in a bad light. Fuse ODG, an English musician of Ghanaian decent and pioneer of the This is New Africa (Tina) movement, wrote a whole article on the Guardian that explained why he dropped out of the project. Among the many reasons why he said he didn’t personally agree with the project, he said that he was “shocked and appalled” by the lyrics for Band Aid 30, and that “The message of the Band Aid 30 song absolutely did not reflect what Africa is truly about.”
However, he also went on to say that he does recognize that Band Aid has done good things for Africa and the Ebola crisis. He simply does not agree with the shock tactics that the campaign uses in its song. And I should go onto mention that there is another song for charity, created by African artists, information on that can be found in this article.
Even with the problems that the charity has, one has to admire the good work that it has done for not only the Ebola crisis but other causes it’s raised money for as well – and that’s simply something that can’t be ignored. And despite the slightly skewed message in the song, the fact that music can bring so many people together for a good cause is still a beautiful thing.