Ebola Pop Is Taking Over Liberia

These are the only songs we've heard about blood, saliva, urine, stool, sweat, semen and infected animals that aren't by black metal bands.

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Sep 1 2014, 2:18pm

A lot of terrible things are happening in the world right now; and most of them involve people dying. Palestine is fucked, Iraq is fucked, Ukraine is fucked, and each day the news seems to report another plane disaster or violent protest. With so much hellish shit going down, it's even possible to forget about the Ebola epidemic—despite the fact it’s killed more than 1500 people in West Africa since the outbreak earlier this year. The disease is mostly widely spread in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia.

One of the reasons Ebola continues to be spread in the region is the struggle in getting information about the disease out there. Adult literacy rates in Liberia, for example, are under 45% making it harder to spread information about the disease. All sort of prevention tactics are being tested: the President has ordered civil servants to stay at home for a month, sailors were banned from disembarking from ships in August, and a quarantine zone has been set-up in the country's capital. The most interesting, though, is the bunch of Liberian musicians who have taken it upon themselves to raise awareness.

In the past few months a spate of Ebola-centered music has been coming out of the country. Artists like Tan, who has released a track called “State of Emergency” that channels R Kelly. Or Shadow, Liberian’s answer to D12, who have released “Ebola in Town." These are the only songs we've heard about blood, saliva, urine, stool, sweat, semen and infected animals that aren't by black metal bands.

UNICEF Comm’s specialist Rukshan Ratnam told me that he believes the music can change misconceptions about Ebola in Liberia, acting as a support to the charity workers who go door to door to raise awareness on Ebola prevention. They’ve developed posters, flyers, radio jingles, dramas, and videos alongside the songs to reach as many people as possible; targeting both teenage and other audiences.

I spoke to Mr F.A of HipCoKings, who released "Ebola is Real," a song with catchy lyrics like "when your monkey want play, don't play with him," (there's a worry about it being spread by baboons.) The song ends with instructions on how to prevent the spread of the disease, including how to perform traditional funerals without putting more people at risk. It's currently the most played song on Liberian TV and Radio.

Noisey: "Ebola Is Real" is an unusual title, surely people knew Ebola was real?

At first no one believed Ebola was actually here. Everyone thought it was some political scam. But with lives being lost, we felt the best way to get this message across is through music...

How difficult was it putting instructional lyrics in your track?

I’m not even sure how the song and lyrics came together, but the plan was to make it catchy and simple enough in order for people to get the message. It worked.

What's the reception been like in Monrovia?

Surprisingly the song has made an impact. People love it. I hear people singing "It's Real," talking about their favorite parts in the song and I smile. ‎The message was delivered.

Follow Sam on Twitter: @SamuelEmden

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