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World Famous

Roger Armstrong & Ben Mandelson
Roger Armstrong & Ben Mandelson
Well that was the first mistake. Money-grabbing imperialist bastards. “We wanted,” continues Ben, digging his own grave, “to be successful and for the music and the artists we represented to be successful.”

This was not simple appropriation of the output of one culture for the financial gain of its mediators in wider markets, as some might have it. Success in terms of increased record sales and touring translates in monetary terms for the artists given that royalties and fees are paid. Clearly, once an artist is recouped, more record sales mean more money for the artist. As Roger Armstrong points out: “The West was selling music in other countries; we wanted to see some two-way traffic, to promote the music of other countries in the West. The success of this puts money back into Africa or Asia, or wherever.”

Making money from music and touring it abroad raises the status of the musicians at home and has many knock-on benefits, at the personal and political level. A high point for Roger Armstrong, was when Seif Salim Salen contacted him to say he’d heard a recording Roger had done with him on the BBC World Service. “Seif said, ‘We believe the BBC’ and it was empowering for him, confirming his move to embrace the Arab cultural roots in Zanzibar and move away from the African yoke.”

Increased status of musicians affects the wider community. Tour promoter Katerina Pavlakis says: “For Sidi Goma, it is a great opportunity to make known a very small, very unknown culture, which even in India is not very much known to the bigger world. They feel extremely proud to be getting this opportunity to show that there is this Sidi community out there. They get more local engagements now and in their village, everybody’s getting a passport, in case they get the chance to show their music abroad. Two years ago, nobody had a passport.”

fRom fRoots 289, July 2007


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