Friday 16 June 2006

The Joy of Living

People who gave selflessly

There might be people who no more want to be associated with an event which happened some 20 years ago, but the fact is that time represented a confidence to stand up and be counted amongst the few who really could do something about a situation that affected Africans.

When the pictures of human misery from Ethiopia filled our screens in 1984/85, musicians in the West came together first with Do They Know Its Christmas and later with We Are the World.

United Artistes for Africa

A group of talented Christians with artistic endowment came together in Nigeria, in what became the United Artistes for Africa, which is quite different from a broader group with the same name that came together much later on.

They produced an album and received extensive television coverage sending their clear, deep and strong Christian message to the public raising compassionate response to the plight of the Ethiopians.

As my memory serves me, I remember so many words of the theme song and have been at pains to obtain the full lyric set.

The joy of living
Is giving the best you got

From the bottom of the deepest part
Of your heart

Right in the corner of the street
There are so many
Who have nothing to eat
Situation, so hard to bear
With love and true compassion
We got to show them that we care
That all the world might know
Heaven's salvation untold

{Where memory fails me - missing bits}

Make our love light shine
I know that we are ready
We are ready, to lay it on the line

We are NOT the World

The words of this song were a lot easier to listen to and understand and did not flout common knowledge when it veered into the religious.

This was one of the many fundamental problems and interpretations with We Are the World. For devout Christians, "The World" signifies a system that is antagonistic to anything related to God.

The line - As God as shown us by turning stones to bread - was blasphemy of the highest order that should have brought out activists in their millions, but they would have been condemned to being without feeling on a project that was supposed to feed the hungry.

God never ever turned stones to bread, Jesus was tempted by the devil to turn stones to bread after a 40 day fast and He replied with the much quoted - Man shall not live by bread alone.

For some, it was like the devil had hijacked a project that brought people together in compassionate response to a serious human crisis.

Giving you the best

This is why The Joy of Living had more resonance with the Christians I knew than We are the World, regardless of the stars that featured.

However, there were stars the line-up of United Artistes for Africa, people who exuded talent that made one wonder at God's creation and people who allow the genius in their beings to flow.

Notable were Soji Bewaji and Bayo Akinsiku; they were both artists in training at polytechnic and somehow, even though I was studying Electrical Engineering, I got amongst a crowd of "impressionists", divided between a wave of Rastafarian inclination and deep Christian affirmation.

I happened to make more friends amongst the latter and they especially Bayo brought me into the realisation of new Christian revelation.

Men of honour, men of great talent

Soji, had the voice, which might at one time have been modelled on Michael Jackson, but developed into something more edifying and full of power of ministry.

When he sang in worship you were caught in two places, the awesome wonder of a sonorous voice in praise of the Almighty God and the almost envy of the fact that you could only croak.

However, he has not departed from his vocation as an inspired and gifted artist who no doubt is a whirlwind of ingenious ideas to his clients and people at large.

Bayo, produced artistic work that was just inspired beyond natural discernment, I saw some of his project work and I was blown away, completely, it was out of this world. That he earned distinctions in college would not have come as a surprise, cynics could not but be effusive with praise.

This was a case where the talent was just there, in your face and if you found flaw it would be in your ability to appreciate not in the work at all. It is no wonder that he is lauded as one of Britain's best painters.[1]

Worthy of commemoration

However, these men participated in the Joy of Giving 20 years ago and are still in the business of giving of themselves in talent, inspiration, knowledge and encouragement that lifts others up to want to be givers too.

So, in the Twentieth year anniversary of that grand and inspired project I commend to you the original United Artistes of Africa who sang for Ethiopia -

God bless your grain
With the latter rain

More so, the individuals, the men and women of God who stood up to be counted when there were mouths to be fed.


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