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‘Artists With One Voice’ Are Using Music to Keep the Spotlight on Ebola

Cover photo of the group's Facebook page.

Cover photo of the group's Facebook page.

Grim stories about the Ebola pandemic are steadily disappearing from news headlines as fewer new infections are reported and the death toll continues to decline in the worst afflicted countries. However, the fight against Ebola is far from over, as a recent US State Department video warns.

In fact, the disease still poses a major health and security threat to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Thus, in spite of the significant gains of the last few months, this is definitely not the time for complacency. In this regard, the “fire” metaphor used by ONE Campaign is a timely one:

Many have described Ebola as a fire; if we get complacent and leave any embers behind, the blaze could easily and quickly reignite. So until we get to zero across the entire region, we shouldn’t rest or consider our job done. And until the job is done, we must redouble our efforts to keep this issue front of mind for politicians, donors, and the media.

One of the groups fighting against complacency in the battle against Ebola is “Artists With One Voice” (AWOV), a US-based collective of musicians from Cameroon, Liberia, Senegal, and the United States who are raising awareness about the disease through music.

“Artists With One Voice” is the brainchild of Cameroon-born Peter Ngu Tayong, a former Outreach and Media Affairs Advisor at the United Nations Integrated Peace building Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL). According to Tayong, the idea to use music for social causes has its origins in his time as the UN’s main communications man in post-war Sierra Leone during which he realized the power of music as a tool for social consciousness, social engagement and national reconciliation. As he points out in a recent VOA interview:

We have to start giving voice to artists… we have to empower artists to use their voices positively. This is the only way you start a movement. We can have a billion songs on Ebola, it doesn’t matter as long as we eradicate Ebola. It is a win-win; the more the merrier.

The group is made up of nine artists:

“Artists with one voice” is made up of Johnny Wisdom, Vicky Fornah, Lady Felicia and Dennis Foray Aka MDG from Sierra Leone; Brent Woodall from United States; Sidikie Jabatie from Guinea; Khalil Gueye from Senegal; Lily Meka from Cameroon; and Brekalia from Liberia. The group was founded by Peter Ngu Tayong from Cameroon.

In December 2014, AWOV released its first single titled “Ebola We Can Overcome,” which has become the de facto Ebola anthem in activist circles in the United States.

Since the release of the song, AWOV has performed across the United States in a variety of settings. Some of the group’s notable performances include the 2015 Martin Luther King Builder and Patron Awards at the University of Maryland where they were one of the honorees; the Institute of Human Virology where they were the guests of famed AIDS researcher Dr. Robert Gallo, and at the United Nations General Assembly Hall for the “Stop Ebola and Build for the Future” concert (AWOV’s performance begins at 1:25:17).

So what next for the group?

Peter Tayong told this author in a telephone interview that AWOV will continue to focus on Ebola awareness until the disease is completely eradicated from West Africa. In the meantime, AWOV has been incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in the United States and intends to use its platform to draw attention, through music, to the myriad of issues facing Africa – AIDS, access to clean water, education, gender inequality, poverty, etc.

So AWOV’s battle against Ebola complacency continues unabated; the group’s next major performance will be at the Annual Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund taking place in Washington, DC on April 17-19, 2015.

Interested in learning more about AWOV’s anti-Ebola crusade? Check out their Facebook page.

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