Some of Africa's top musicians launched on Monday an alternative Ebola appeal song to Band Aid's new recording of “Do They Know It's Christmas?" with proceeds also going to fight the virus that has killed more than 5,000 people in West Africa this year.
Despite reaching number one in the UK charts, Bob Geldof's “Do They Know It's Christmas?” song has been slammed by critics who say the rewritten lyrics, including Christmas bells that clang “chimes of doom” and a world of “dread and fear/Where a kiss of love can kill you,” are an insult to Africans.
By contrast, “Africa Stop Ebola,” sung in French and local languages including Malinke, Soussou, Kissi and Lingala, uses a mixture of rap and melodies that are distinctive to West Africa, to urge people to take Ebola seriously and go to a doctor if they are ill.
Recorded by Malians Salif Keita, Oumou Sangare and the duo Amadou and Mariam, Guinean Mory Kante, Congolese Barbara Kanam and Senegalese rapper Didier Awadi among others, the song also warns people to wash their hands, avoid shaking hands with others and to refrain from touching dead bodies.
Tiken Jah Fakoly, a renowned Ivorian musician who has rallied other artists to raise awareness about Ebola, said he was touched by TV images of people in quarantine in the worst-affected countries Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
'Avoid stigmatizing Africa'
“When I saw those terrible images, I called the other musicians and said that we have to do something to sensitize the people about this disease,” Fakoly told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Fakoly said of Band Aid 30: “I praise Bob Geldof's initiative and he has raised a lot of money, but we must try and avoid stigmatizing Africa as a continent that needs pity.”
Ebola, a rare, tropical disease is spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids such as blood, sweat and vomit. The virus has infected over 15,000 people in the region since it was first reported in Guinea in March, according to the World Health Organization.
Although the number of cases in Liberia appears to be falling, Sierra Leone and Guinea are witnessing a steep rise in the number people who are newly infected. Mali is currently fighting its second outbreak.
According to the song's producers, 3D Family, “Africa stop Ebola” has sold 250,000 copies since it's unofficial release earlier this month with all proceeds going to medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).
The launch marks the beginning of a December campaign using song merchandise including T-shirts, flyers, posters, a video with English subtitles and a social media campaign to show people how the virus can be stopped.