While the newspapers more or less ignored the hunger catastrophe in Eritrea and Ethiopia in 2003, Simen Joner decided to do something. The result is called Wuha, an idealistic music festival in Oslo at the end of January with more than 40 of the most promising Norwegian acts, where all the money is dedicated to African aid projects. Joner is still hoping to see Bob Geldof on stage.
“His manager said that if I could fix transport for him from Oslo to Drammen, I could talk to him. I was thinking about renting a limo, but Geldof is a cool guy, so I met with an ordinary car. And there he was at the airport, Bob with the bag,” Simen Joner tells.
Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats were giving four concerts in Norway last October, and Joner could not let the chance of meeting the Band Aid leader pass by. He had sent several emails, called his manager, making fuzz, in other words. It worked.
“At first, he seemed a bit reserved, he did not say much in the car, but when we started talking about Africa, aid projects, the world, life, and death, he opened up. He is so reflected, such a nice guy, and a great musician! I have invited him to the Wuha festival, and I have not given up the idea of seeing him on stage yet, Joner says who has not heard from Geldof since.
Ready for Dugnad 2004
Confirmed on stage, at least, are Madrugada, Furia, Frost, Palace of Pleasure, Bugge Wesseltoft, Fe-mail, Bjørn Eidsvåg, Don Juan Dracula, just to mention a few. The interest for Wuha lasting from 26 January till 1 February has been so immense that several bands had to be rejected. All the artists are playing for free and 100% of the income from tickets is going to aid projects coordinated by Red Cross, Norwegian Church Aid, and The Development Fund. Simen Joner and Kjetil Bjørke are the main brains behind Dugnad 2004 (dugnad means voluntary work), the group that organises Wuha. For one year, Joner has been organising and planning the festival for free.
“Before I could start, I had to find the two countries on the map. Then I met with development organisations, and together with an expert panel, among them Trygve Berg fra Noragric, John Jones, Institute for Global Network, and Axel Borchgrevink, NUPI, we decided on which projects to support. I hope we are able to raise half or 1 million NOK ($72 000 - $144 000/€ 58 000 - €116 000). But even more, to raise attention towards the countries. Ethiopia has never been a colony and has a fantastic history and culture, much more unique than the Norwegian culture, ” Joner says.
He has never visited any of the countries, but as he says, “you don’t have to be there to know that there is hunger.”
For years, Joner has toured with his band the Hudlums. All the time, he has done everything himself without being dependent on record companies, managers, or booking agents. Joner has always been free to say whatever he wants.
“I miss engagement among Norwegian musicians. They should use all the media attention to say something important, to do something. They are models for so many, for Christ sake. Everyone could do this, but no one does it. So I had to, “ Joner says engaged.
Still, he has to admit it is a bit hard to arrange such a festival. Not everyone would be willing to work for free for one year. Not everyone would dare to find new delayed bills in their mailbox every week. Still.
“I have never had it at better. Very few people are starving in Norway, you would have to mess it up real hard. I have a girlfriend and my parents, they have been helping me out. I am used to live on very little money. And bills from Telenor (telecommunication company) is not what I worry about the most.”
Geldof on the line
But back to Geldof. What kind of advice could he give you?
“He said cool, keep working! But when I meet him, we had already done so much, he could not give us much advice. It is 20 years since he arranged Band Aid, he has moved on. And we can arrange this without Geldof. Still, he is kind of a God father. He has a direct line to Bush and Blair and several African leaders, and he can push them really hard. As he says; What the hell, just go out and do it!”