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World Coronavirus songs in Africa reveal the power of music with a message

19:35  20 september  2020
19:35  20 september  2020 Source:   pri.org

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When graduate student Dipo Oyeleye heard the song "We Go Win (Corona)" by Cobhams Asuquo, a Nigerian singer-songwriter, he knew what his next research project would be: a study of the myriad coronavirus songs that flourished in Africa at the pandemic's onset on the continent.

a person holding a microphone: A screenshot from the video © Screenshot

A screenshot from the video "We Go Win (Corona)" by Nigerian musician Cobhams Asuquo, via YouTube.

"I was just basically fascinated. I love artists using the moment to create music that actually helps to disseminate the right information to the general public," Oyeleye told The World.

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Originally from Nigeria himself, Oyeleye studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he is now researching COVID-19 songs from Nigeria to Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo to Ghana, among many other places across the continent. Oyelele has been able to compile and track the impact of at least 50 songs from various African artists.

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Unlike the US, where very few artists have taken on COVID-19 as a subject in songs, African musicians quickly turned to their songwriting as a form of communication and to disseminate crucial public health information: social distancing, washing hands and staying home during lockdowns.

"This is a major [pandemic that] directly affects everybody, including the musicians. Some of them had to cancel their shows. I think the personal became political," Oyeleye explained.

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Having battled epidemics such as the Ebola virus, most Africans are used to governments that call on musicians to produce "edutainment," or songs with a message to sensitize the public.

But Oleyele says that what makes the coronavirus songs different is that it was not "necessarily initiated by the governments. It's just, you know, individuals lending their voices to help prevent the spread of the virus."

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Some artists took a direct public health approach, while others used humor or religion to ease fears and connect with various communities. And some songs were specifically meant for people who could only communicate in local languages.

There's really something for everyone.

As COVID-19 continues to pose a threat, take a listen to these powerful African songs with a strong "corona" message.

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Nigeria: 'We Go Win (Corona)' by Cobhams Asuquo

In this inspiring ballad, Asuquo implores listeners to "always do the right thing" by following public health measures and ignoring "fake news" that circulates on social media about the virus.

"Wash your hands / love each other / we go win o," he croons at the piano.

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