Youssou N’Dour to Bobi Wine, African musicians join fight against coronavirus

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Corona Chronicles: 30 March – 3 April

By Léo Pajon

Posted on Friday, 3 April 2020 17:13
France Jazz
Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour and other music artists from across Africa are supporting campaigns or creating music to increase awareness of how to stop the spread of coronavirus. File photo from July 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

African music stars are taking more action than ever before to combat the pandemic, through donations, songs, awareness-raising music videos and appeals to fans.

The music world has lost some of its best soldiers, including Manu Dibango and Aurlus Mabélé, but it has not lost the war.

Over the past few weeks, music artists have stepped up to the plate to spread awareness among their fans about  coronavirus in an effort to help prevent deaths.

In Dakar, Youssou N’Dour donated a batch of health care supplies and equipment to Senegal’s minister of health. In his tweet dated 14 March, he explains that his country Senegal would not be spared from the virus. So he offered his support to the government entitled “Operation Daan Coronavirus”.

The musician, who still serves as an adviser to President Macky Sall, has also put his company Futurs Médias to work for the cause. His private TV channel, Télé Futurs Média (TFM), is broadcasting educational lessons for children unable to attend school via a show called “Salle des profs” (staff room), hosted by one of TFM’s stars, Astou Mbène Thioub.

READ MORE: Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango dies of coronavirus

Fally Ipupa launches several initiatives

Fally Ipupa addressed the community on Facebook on 21 March, calling on people to make donations.

In a serious tone quite out of character for him, he said: “I know it’s really very complicated in Kinshasa, not everyone can afford to go shopping…”.

He called on artists, athletes and regular citizens to come together as a community and donate via his online fundraising campaign set up by the Fally Ipupa Foundation.

On the foundation’s Instagram account and Facebook page, there are phone numbers, bank account details and a link to an online fundraising campaign so that people can donate food items, personal care and hygiene products, and/or money.

At the time of this writing, his Leetchi fundraiser had received a little over €6,000 worth of donations.

Of course, music artists are also fighting the disease through songs and music videos. In the past, Ebola and the avian flu spurred the creation of hits, and the novel coronavirus is no exception to the rule.

“The virus is outside, everywhere […] let’s shut ourselves away like in wartime / the enemy has no face, and we, we are people of all ages, we, all those we love, our young children / let’s confine ourselves, let’s stay at home”, advised Congolese singer Koffi Olomide in his music video “Coronavirus Assassin”, posted online on 30 March.

READ MORE: Pape Diouf, former manager of Marseille, dies from coronavirus in Senegal

DJ Kerozen dons a face mask and gloves

In Côte d’Ivoire, DJ Kerozen is perhaps one of the first to grasp the extent of the threat.

After cancelling his concerts, the coupé-décalé star appeared on social media with a face mask and gloves, set up a donation hotline and quickly performed a song. “The situation is serious, so we, too, need to be serious”, the singer crooned.

The tone of these new songs is not always sad. The Ndlovu Youth Choir, in South Africa, a country particularly impacted by the crisis, has produced several cheerful and very practical music videos, including one which shows viewers how to wash their hands effectively.

Hand Wash Challenge

We come from a community with limited access to running water. As washing hands is our first line of defence against #Coronavirus, we have made a video on how to safely wash your hands using a bucket. Stay safe. We are all in this together. 🙏🏾❤️ #TwentySecondChallenge #COVID19

Publiée par Ndlovu Youth Choir sur Mardi 24 mars 2020

On the other side of the continent, in Morocco, the female music group Laawniyat jokingly calls on the virus to “turn around and head back to China”.

Liberia’s George Weah gets behind the mike

Nigerian music artists, less familiar with awareness-raising songs, are also increasingly taking part in prevention efforts on social media. Tiwa Savage posted a photo in which she dons a face mask and is holding a bottle of hand sanitiser. Burna Boy warned his fans with a few words: “Stay safe!! Please make sure to prioritise your health in these difficult times.”

The activist and political sphere is also using music to help get the message across.

In Uganda, singer Bobi Wine, the main opposition figure to Yoweri Museveni, posted online his song “Corona Virus Alert”, a reggae awareness-raising tune that is particularly significant in this closed-off nation where it is very difficult to get accurate information.

In Liberia, it is none other than President George Weah himself who has gotten behind the mike, teaming up with gospel artists to create a song. “It could be your momma, your papa, your brothers or your sisters. Let’s stand together to fight this deadly disease now”, sings the former international footballer in English.

It is a strategy that is bound to pay off in a country with limited internet access, but where radios are everywhere.


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