Band Aid’s Festive Anthem Slammed For Its Lyrics Of “Racist And Patronising African Stereotypes”

Nearly 40 years after it topped the UK Christmas pop chart and made millions of pounds for charity, Band Aid’s charity anthem has come under fresh fire for its lyrics, which critics say perpetuate racist and patronising stereotypes of African people.

The song, Do They Know It’s Christmas? was written and recorded by dozens of the UK’s most popular pop artists in response to a devastating famine occurring in Ethiopia at the time. It sold millions, and within a year had raised £8million ($10.1million) for humanitarian relief.

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It also famously kept off the top chart spot Last Christmas by Wham!, a song which finally reached the top spot this year. At the time, that song’s writer George Michael donated all its proceeds to the Band Aid fund.

But Band Aid’s lyrics have not aged well, with critics now lining up to slam what writer Indrajit Samarajiva calls “a terrible, racist song.”

He writes: “It’s not just that these lyrics haven’t aged well. They were never good at all.

“They take an ignorant and colonial attitude, more about making white people feel good than helping anyone.”

And he adds that that the song makes sweeping references to Africa, with no specific reference to the suffering in Ethiopia:

“For instance, the lyrics: ‘There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time. The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life.

‘Where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow. Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?”

“I mean, this is all wrong. It does snow in Africa, although not a lot.”

Meanwhile, Nigerian Igbo British writer Ije Teunissen-Oligboh has shared her discomfort of growing up in the UK at the time of the song’s release:

“The intention is a great one and should be lauded rather than criticised, but the execution was appalling and helped to perpetuate stereotypes and misinformation.

“The discomfort I felt as a child watching the single’s music video alongside my predominantly white friends in school assemblies was unnecessary and avoidable … I struggled to articulate to peers that the images they were seeing in the video weren’t an accurate representation of an entire continent.”

The song has been re-recorded by different artists and released several times since 1984, with money raised for different charitable efforts, and with the lyrics tweaked. But the original remains the standard, and is much played in the UK throughout every festive season.

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