Singing In The Shower To Help Save Cape Town's Water In late 2017, the South African city — hit by a historic drought — faced the possibility it would have to shut off its water supply within six months. A musical challenge helped avert that disaster.
NPR logo

Singing In The Shower To Help Save Cape Town's Water

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/644918801/645665486" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Singing In The Shower To Help Save Cape Town's Water

Singing In The Shower To Help Save Cape Town's Water

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/644918801/645665486" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And today, we have a quick preview.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And this preview is literally quick. I went to South Africa to learn how Cape Town avoided becoming the first major city in the modern era to run out of water. And as I was reporting that piece, which we'll hear next week, I stumbled upon this - a two-minute story about two-minute songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROUGE")

ROUGE: (Rapping) Don't it feel like deja vu, de-de-deja vu? Don't it feel like deja vu...?

SHAPIRO: When Cape Town's drought was at its worst, an insurance firm decided to help get the word out that people needed to save water. The company hired a communications firm called King James.

SUSAN VAN ROOYEN: I'm Susan van Rooyen, 30 years old. And I'm a copywriter.

MOE KEKANA: And my name is Moe Kekana, 28 years old and art director.

SHAPIRO: The pitch was make a billboard telling people to save water, which seemed kind of boring.

VAN ROOYEN: But then we kind of got brainstorming. And we came up with this 2-Minute Shower Songs campaign.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NANA")

MI CASA: (Singing) Wake up, nana.

SHAPIRO: Two-minute shower songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NANA")

MI CASA: (Singing) Take a shower, nana. Nana, nana. How do...

SHAPIRO: Cape Town's government was asking people to take showers that lasted two minutes or less to save water.

VAN ROOYEN: What do people do in the shower? You know, they sing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NANA")

MI CASA: (Singing) Tell me how do...

SHAPIRO: So the team asked South Africa's biggest pop stars to record new versions of their most famous songs, versions just two minutes long.

KEKANA: I remember sending an email where somebody said, how many do you want? I was like, well, I could live with four or five, but 10 would be the dream. And we got 10.

VAN ROOYEN: So we went into studio. We recorded with 10 artists in two weeks, and we basically created an album in under a month.

SHAPIRO: The idea is you hit play as you jump in the shower, sing along and finish by the time the song ends.

VAN ROOYEN: And some of them even changed their genre.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TAKING IT EASY")

GOODLUCK: (Singing) We're taking it easy. We're taking it easy.

VAN ROOYEN: For instance, there's a - you know of Goodluck? They kind of went from a chilled, like, house track to a drum and bass.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TAKING IT EASY")

GOODLUCK: (Singing) We're taking it easy. We're taking it easy.

VAN ROOYEN: So it was a challenge for them. And what was so nice is translating the sense of urgency of the drought into the song.

KEKANA: My favorite is definitely Desmond and the Tutus.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TEENAGERS")

DESMOND AND THE TUTUS: (Singing) Let's act like teenagers.

KEKANA: That was also a major shift in how they did it. And this was all done in three days, from notice to recording.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TEENAGERS")

DESMOND AND THE TUTUS: (Singing) I need your face where my face is. You know the place. Let's act like teenagers.

SHAPIRO: Pop stars are not exactly superheroes. But in this crisis, everyone had a role to play.

KEKANA: One of the lines we used was the album about people singing to save a city.

VAN ROOYEN: Sometimes you don't know what you can do to help within a crisis, and they were doing what they do best.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DIT RAAK BETER")

FRANCOIS VAN COKE: (Singing in Dutch).

SHAPIRO: That's Susan van Rooyen and Moe Kekana, creators of the 2-Minute Shower Songs campaign that helped Cape Town get through the worst drought in the city's history. All next week, we'll have more stories from the water front.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DIT RAAK BETER")

VAN COKE: (Singing in Dutch).

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.