A group of West African musicians and celebrities 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.
Led by Ivory Coast Reggae Star Tiken Jah Fakoly, the Africa Stop Ebola Song Contest will bring to Conakry a unique musical event that will mobilize local communities to write songs and performances that reflect, inspire and educate about the dangers of Ebola. The contest will 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. Over 250 people have already applied to participate in the contest. Speaking at the press conference in Conakry, Tiken Jah Fakoly said:
“This song contest will truly engage our people in the fight against Ebola. In Africa, music and storytelling are the communication tools that our communities understand. We are trying to bring the human aspect of Ebola out and get people to talk about it to deal with the pain and sorrow.”
At the peak of the Ebola outbreak in 2014, Tiken Jah Fakoly with Salif Keita, Amadou & Mariam, Oumou Sangare -who are in the Forbes list of 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.
The song contest is a continuation of the campaign and aims to get local communities to create the messages themselves. Engaging communities in this process will help to push to get to zero cases in West Africa.
The Africa Stop Ebola song contest was nominated for an award by Fighting Ebola: a Grand Challenge for Development, a grant competition organised 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, calling for innovative ideas to help stop the spread of the disease in West Africa.