A group of well-known West African musicians, together with Carlos Chirinos, a visiting instructor of music business, have launched a song contest in Guinea to educate local communities about Ebola. The contest was announced at a press conference in the Guinean capital Conakry, the Ground Zero of the current Ebola outbreak.
The Africa Stop Ebola song contest was one of fifteen projects selected from over 1,500 applications to Fighting Ebola: a Grand Challenge for Development, a grant competition organized by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Defense. The initiative called for innovative ideas to help stop the spread of the disease in West Africa, where in spite of significant progress in Liberia, Ebola still poses a significant threat, particularly in Guinea and Sierra Leon.
Led by Ivory Coast Reggae artist Tiken Jah Fakoly, the Africa Stop Ebola Song Contest brings to Guinea a musical event intended to mobilize local communities to write songs and give performances that reflect, inspire, and educate about the dangers of Ebola. The contest is designed to give local people an opportunity to work with health workers, practitioners and established artists to create health messages that promote support for survivors and families of the diseased and educate communities on how to be vigilant about potential future outbreaks of the deadly disease.
The musical event will be staged in Conakry and will be broadcast on Radio and TV throughout the country, involving local and international artists. To date, over 250 people have applied to participate in the contest.
At the peak of the Ebola outbreak in 2014, Tiken Jah Fakoly with Salif Keita, Amadou & Mariam, Oumou Sangare – who were among those named by Forbes magazine as the most influential people in Africa – and others, recorded the song Africa Stop Ebola, which relayed critical information to change behaviors and attitudes towards the disease. The song was aired on Radio and TV stations throughout West Africa and was featured in all major international media, making the hashtag #AfricaStopEbola one of the top 15 trending topics in Africa in 2014. The initiative received support from international celebrities including Bono, Peter Gabriel, and Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations.
“This song contest is a continuation of an ongoing and successful campaign that aims to get local communities to create the messages themselves,” said Chirinos, who specializes in behavioral change communication, music, and radio in Africa. “It is only by engaging local communities in this process that the Ebola Virus can be contained and prevented.”