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Reggae Vibe, Ebola Message: African Superstars Try To Go Viral

Mariam and Amadou, both from Mali, add their voices to the song "Africa Stop Ebola."
Sia Kambou
AFP/Getty Images
Mariam and Amadou, both from Mali, add their voices to the song "Africa Stop Ebola."

It's the biggest Ebola song yet.

Just as stars like Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder came together in 1985 to sing "We Are the World" and raise money for Ethiopian famine relief, 12 acclaimed African musicians have united to marry music and message.

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.

Music has been part of the fight against Ebola. Artists in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have produced several pop songs since the beginning of the outbreak, emphasizing that the virus was indeed real and that "no touching" was a good rule to stay safe.

The producers of "Africa Stop Ebola" believe it's important now to send a message of hope, says Carlos Chirinos, an instructor at New York University who studies media and social development and has been involved in past charitable campaigns using music. The French production company called on him to offer advice on the lyrics.

"The positive stories about the survivors in Africa are not coming out enough," says Chirinos. One of the most important points to get across, adds Susan Krenn, director of a health communication center at Johns Hopkins University, is that "we can beat this back."

The song will help in other ways. It will soon be released via online music retailers, including iTunes. 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.

Meanwhile, Michael Sappol, historian at the National Library of Medicine, thinks the next Ebola song should be produced in the U.S., with the message: Don't panic here — help West Africa.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Linda Poon