Liberian Singers Use The Power Of Music To Raise Ebola Awareness Early on in the epidemic, the government and aid agencies commissioned songs that just ended up terrifying people. But the newer songs on the radio are catchy and danceable — as well as informative.

Liberian Singers Use The Power Of Music To Raise Ebola Awareness

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Music has been a tool of public health campaigns across Africa. Songs have been used to spread information in the fight against diseases like malaria and AIDS. Now in West Africa, Liberian musicians are singing to educate people about how to keep from getting infected with Ebola virus. NPR's Jason Beaubien stopped by Sky FM in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, to talk with one DJ about the latest Ebola songs that are dominating his playlist.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Elliot Adekoya is a 31-year-old musician and disc jockey who's known as the Milkman.

ELLIOT ADEKOYA: Every life is given through the milk. Your mother breast-feed you with milk.

BEAUBIEN: Adekoya views himself as the milk that produces the music. Yesterday, he was working the midday on-air shift at one of the most popular pop stations, Sky FM. Early on the epidemic, the government and aid agencies commissioned public awareness songs, but they actually ended up terrifying people. The message was there's no cure. Don't touch anybody. Stop eating bush meat.

ADEKOYA: It used to be a death sentence to people, so it scared people away. And that's how people started running away from one community to another community. And people saw it like a - it was like a curse.

BEAUBIEN: He says, people have started to see that you can survive this disease. And he says, listeners don't want to hear those despondent messages all the time on the radio.

ADEKOYA: The Ebola scenario is something that people don't want to listen to anymore because they're so fed up. They're so sick of it. So if you're making a song - an Ebola song that people are going to listen to, now it has to be danceable.


F.A. AND SOUL FRESH: (Singing) Ebola is here. Don't touch your family. Ebola is here. Protect your community. Ebola is here. Because Ebola is here. It's real. It's time to protect yourself. Ebola is here.

BEAUBIEN: He says, one of the most popular songs right now is by F.A. and Soul Fresh called "Ebola Is Real." It tells people to protect themselves from getting infected. He says, two of the most powerful phrases are the thing - Ebola - now come and the thing now show face.


F.A. AND SOUL FRESH: (Singing) The thing now come. The thing now show face.

ADEKOYA: Yeah, you know, that's the thing the children enjoy. Once it go around, people be like, no shaking hand, my man. The thing now come. The thing now show face. In the Liberian way, when they say, the thing now come, it means the thing is here. Now we know it's here, and it has shown its face, so you - we all understand is in our midst. Now we got to be careful.


F.A. AND SOUL FRESH: (Singing) Tell somebody - please tell somebody to tell somebody that Ebola is here. Tell somebody - please tell somebody to tell somebody that Ebola is here. Protect...

BEAUBIEN: Radio remains an incredibly powerful medium in West Africa. It blasts from shops. Young men crank it up in rust bucket taxis. You hear it playing from simple shacks and tidy stucco homes.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: That's becoming the anthem for Ebola.

BEAUBIEN: In addition to the Ebola songs, announcers are regularly talking about the disease. They urge people to stay away from dead bodies, regularly wash your hands, get to a treatment center right away if you have symptoms. Some of the most popular Ebola songs get played over and over again. The chorus of "Ebola Is Real" wafts all over the city. But it's not just pop music that has taken on the epidemic. There are R and B songs, rap, slow jams, Afro pop tunes.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: The world is in disarray. Ebola is everywhere. People dying every day.

BEAUBIEN: Adekoya at Sky FM says, music is having an impact. It's a way to express frustration and let off steam. It's a way to remind people how to stay away from the virus. It's way for Liberians to come together in the face of a terrifying illness. He's particularly excited about a project called Save Liberia. It's sort of a local version of We Are the World, and it brings together 45 of the country's most famous musicians.

ADEKOYA: The Save Liberia project is the main project that I'm looking forward to. And I just want to see how it's going to turn things around.

BEAUBIEN: And Adekoya believes it will have an impact on this epidemic because he has faith in the power of music. Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Monrovia.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Our lives are filled with fear. Our eyes are filled with tears.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Save Liberia. Save the future. Let's stand together.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: We can stand together.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. 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.