Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Band Aid Pushback? West African Stars Sing Their Own Tune on Ebola

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Band Aid Pushback? West African Stars Sing Their Own Tune on Ebola

Article excerpt

After you hear it, you might find yourself singing it - with the words "Ebola, Ebola" rolling off your tongue. It might seem strange to hum about one of the world's most pressing health crises, especially to such an upbeat refrain.

But that's exactly the point of a new creation by a collective of West African artists, called Africa Fight Ebola. They've set five minutes of what is essentially a public service announcement to pop and reggae in an effort to dispel myths and stereotypes about the virus and get Africans to do all that they can to prevent it.

Their song has come out as Band Aid has released its own song to raise funds to fight Ebola, a remake of "Do they know it's Christmas Time?" Organized by Irish singer Bob Geldof, it has topped UK charts. But it's also been slammed for stigmatizing Africa with lyrics that perpetuate fear, sung by a line-up of famous artists that include only one African.

Africa Fight Ebola, on the other hand, is sung by the artists whom many West Africans know well, and its lyrics, in seven languages, are as straightforward as the group's name. "You cannot kiss someone," belts out the Guinean artist Mory Kante. "It's just the reality." Other lyrics include: "Take Ebola seriously," "wash your hands, and "avoid shaking hands of others."

"We chose to sing because we need to talk about Ebola," says Barbara Kanam, a well-known Congolese singer, in a bright royal- blue blouse at the Paris offices of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which benefits from the song's proceeds "The message is easier to hear in a song than what a doctor says to you. Through song, people can understand that it exists, but that it can be overcome."

MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, has been on the frontlines of the fight against Ebola in West Africa. But the group is the first to admit that when it comes to prevention, it is the musical stars, including reggae artist Tiken Jah Fakoly and pop-singer Salif Keita, not the nurses and doctors, who can spread prevention advice fastest. …

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