Saturday, November 15, 2014

Reggae, hip hop and pop musicians record benefit performances in West Africa, UK to benefit Ebola treatment

While this week's star-studded Live Aid recording session in London hopes to raise money in the developed nations to combat the spread of the Ebola virus, West African artists have been joining forces in local and regional supergroups since the outbreak of the disease several months ago. Some of the music is quite stunning.

Live Aid is a British and Irish charity supergroup organized by Sir Bob Gendolf, of the Irish rock band Boomtown Rats. First recruited in 1984 to record a song called "Do They Know It's Christmas?" to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia, Gendolf has updated the lyrics to reflect the Ebola crisis and plans to have the new video ready for purchase in time for the holiday season.

(Click here to see some of the celebrity coverage of this week's recording session.)

In the meantime, a group of 12 musicians from Guinea and Senegal has recorded a song "Africa Stop Ebola." It is getting airplay in the French-speaking West African nations, and its promoters say proceeds from sales in the developed world will go to Médecins Sans Frontières. And it isn't the only musical Ebola initiative in West Africa.

A couple of YouTube clips, first the "Africa Stop Ebola" video and second Tiken Jah Fakoly explaining his hopes for airing it in the affected nations:

Africa Stop Ebola. Tiken Jah Fakoly, Amadou & Mariam, Salif Keita, Oumou Sangare, Kandia Kora, Mory Kante, Sia Tolno, Barbara Kanam and rappers Didier Awadi, Marcus (from the band Banlieuz'Arts) and Mokobe. Click on "CC" logo for English subtitles.

Message from Tiken Jah Fakoly to #Liberia and #SierraLeone. Fakoly, a reggae artist of Ivory Coast who enlisted the other musicians for the project, explains his hope that the music will help educate West Africans about the disease and help bring hope that its ravages can be overcome.

Recorded and produced over a period of several weeks this fall, "Africa Stop Ebola" will be sold by iTunes and other online vendors, reports Linda Poon for National Public Radio. "Profits will go to the international health group Doctors Without Borders, which has been on the ground in the hardest-hit countries since the spring," she adds. Her report gives the necessary background for American listeners:

The reggae song is called "Africa Stop Ebola" and features legendary West African musicians like Tiken Jah Fakoly and Kandia Kora from Guinea, along with influential rappers like Didier Awadi from Senegal. The French company 3D Family produced the song.

Kora and fellow musician Sekou Kouyate, also from Guinea, wrote the song. Fakoly began to recruit West African artists to lend their voices. Most came to Paris to record; a few sang from their countries. The song took about a month to assemble.

In French and in local African languages, the supergroup sings about an "invisible enemy" that can be defeated. They sing of the need to "have confidence in doctors" and to rid Ebola victims of the stigma they face. The track has been getting airplay in West Africa since its release last month.

On Nov. 2 BBC News aired a report quoting Carlos Chirinos of London University, an expert in communications in the developing nations and one of the video's producers. "We need a lot of support [for efforts to contain the disease in West Africa]," and we need to build on the popularity of music," he said. Musicians can have a measure of credibility that official spokesmen lack, he said, and one of the goals of airing the song is to restore trust in the medical community in the affected nations.

In the meantime, on Friday Great Britain's Channel 4 news aired a report on "catchy educational tunes" used to fight the disease in West Africa. Riffing off of the celebrity involvement in the new BandAid recording session and titled "Does Bob Geldof know Africa's Ebola aid songs?," it features audio and video clips of several West African songs. Especially powerful, both musically and in terms of its production values as a video, is one put together and narrated by rapper Jimmy B of Sierra Leone:

EBOLA 4 GO - Paradise Film. Sierra Leone. Uploaded Oct. 22 by the Sierra Network.
Song Title: "Ebola 4 Go"
Artist: Jimmy B, Wahid, Camouflage & Cee Jay
Produced By: Paradise Film

Background on Jimmy B, more formally known as Jimmy Yeanie Bangura, the "God-father" of Sierra Leone's music industry, in the newspaper Awoko at

This is not the first time that the musician turn filmmaker has done songs about development and national issues. He was at the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS and his contribution towards bringing peace to Sierra Leone was even more well documented.

About the outbreak of the virus which has led to the death of about 110 people [as of Juy 15] in Sierra Leone, Jimmy described the outbreak as “the biggest calamity that has befallen Sierra Leone after the war”. He added: “we need to come together and fight together.” ‘The Ebola Song features veteran musician Steady Bongo and singing sensation Heyden Adama.

Jimmy B said he produced the song from his little resources and thanked Steady Bongo and Heyden Adama for their parts in it. “I am giving this song out free of charge and I want the Ministry of Health to help distribute it far and wide.”

He said the song is self-explanatory and it is aimed at raising awarenss about the deadly virus that is spreading fast in the country.

Jimmy B maintained that he has rapport and access to the masses and through his song he believes the masses will understand and learn about the dangers of Ebola as it is a gift to the people of Sierra Leone.

Jimmy B hopes the ‘the Ebola Song’ [EBOLA 4 GO] will go a long way to help sensitize people on this latest trying times in the country’s life. “We need more information about the dangers of this disease and ‘the Ebola Song’ will serve as a useful tool to help sensitize others. Music reaches a wider audience and I am sure the message will reach the people through this song,” he said.

He added that most time people tend to listen to their [cultural] icons than politicians and therefore urged the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to work with artists. “We have been very consistent and society also tends to trust and listen to us.”

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