Friday, January 21, 2005

ETHIOPIA: Marley event to highlight HIV/AIDS, war and poverty

Source: IRIN

ADDIS ABABA, 21 January (IRIN) - The wife of legendary reggae star Bob Marley is spearheading one of the largest ever music concerts in Ethiopia to celebrate his 60th birthday anniversary, organisers said on Friday.

The organisers hope to highlight issues like HIV/AIDS, war and poverty, while raising funds for tsunami relief in Somalia, the Shashemane Medical Centre and Bob Marley Youth Development Centre in downtown Addis Ababa.

"The Marley family is committed to progressing Bob's legacy as a champion for human rights," Desta Meghoo-Peddie, managing director of the Bob Marley Foundation, said. "We invite the world to celebrate with us in refuelling the spirit that will unify Africa, her sons and daughters in the Diaspora and work towards ending violence, poverty, injustice and discrimination."

Dubbed "Africa Unite" in tribute to one of Marley's most famous songs, several hundred thousand people are expected to attend the free month-long celebrations.

"Africa is Bob's spiritual home and so solidarity among other cultural activists across the continent is important to his family," Rita, his widow, said. "We want to negate the impoverished, dependent and hopeless images of Africa that are beamed around the world every day."

"Africa Unite" was designed to underscore the need for unity by all Africans, including those in the Diaspora, "to end the violence, poverty and suffering, which impacts the world", Rita said.

In what will be the first celebration of the singer's birthday outside Jamaica, stars from around the world are attending the 6 February event, which organisers estimate up to 400,000 people will attend in Addis Ababa.

African and international musicians, including Grammy Award winner India Arie, Angelique Kidjo, Shaggy, Luciano, Marley's children, Quincy Jones, Baaba Maal and Youssou N'Dour will take part.

The Cuban-born Rita also said she will be singing at the concert with Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt as the I-Threes, Marley's former back-up group. The concert is to be the highlight of the celebrations and will also include a film festival, seminars and a gala fundraiser using the themes of the reggae star's songs, including War, Exodus and Get Up Stand Up.

The African Union (AU), the World Bank, UNICEF, UNECA and Ethiopian government are supporting the event. The celebration will also feature the launch of Rita's biography entitled, "No Woman No Cry - My Life with Bob Marley", an exhibition of African art and three conferences on African unity, women and youth.

Ethiopia was chosen to host the events because of the key role it plays in the Rastafarian spiritual movement. Not only is former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, born Ras Tafari, the spiritual leader of the Rastafarians that Marley embraced and popularised, but Addis Ababa is the headquarters to the AU.

Celebrations are also set to take place in Shashemene, some 250 km south of Addis Ababa, which has become home to hundreds of Rastafarians. The Rastafarians, who are mainly from Jamaica, started migrating to Ethiopia 41 years ago after being given 500 hectares of land in Shashemene on which to settle by Selassie.

IRIN news

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