Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Salif Keita – Bobo

As ebola poses an increasing threat to Malian security and to the welfare of its people, it is important to highlight the continued efforts that are being made nationally, regionally and internationally to combat the disease.

In the UK the most high-profile effort has been the increasingly controversial Bob Geldof-led campaign “Band Aid 30” – a reincarnation of the Band Aid brand that has raised funds through charitable music record sales for decades. Though the new track, re-recorded this time with a specific focus on ebola in its lyrics, is raising millions of pounds it has still been regarded by some as perpetuating negative stereotypes of the African continent; thus in political and investment term it is doing more harm that good. The outrage is well-placed, with criticism even emanating from contributing artists that have ‘regretted’ the content of the final cut. When fighting a large-scale epidemic in an impoverished part of the world, it is hard to think of anything more valuable than vast sums of money – at least in the short-run. But even here issues are raised: where are the millions of raised money actually going? And many have supported the critique that the lyrics are now out-dated and the Band Aid project is now not only irrelevant, but insulting too.

On the flip-side of the debate, some have argued passionately that the resurrection of this specific campaign at this time has particular resonance. Adrian Lovett, a leading campaigner with Jubilee 2000, Make Poverty History, Save the Children and now “global advocacy lobby” ONE points to the failed promises of the G8 summit at Gleneagles as being the real worthy focus of criticism in this debate. This G8 summit in 2005 was the last time the last Geldof-led anti-poverty musical campaign was wheeled out. Lovett explains that:

“If the promises made in 2005  had been kept, these healthcare systems [of West Africa] would’ve been more effective and might have been able to contain the disease as has been done in Nigeria and Uganda…Geldof is putting those broken promises back on the political agenda.”

It could easily be argued from here that the ‘Band-Aid’ brand has the appropriate campaign history to tackle ebola with a sense of consistency and credibility.

Meanwhile, the original (NOT “alternative“, by the way) African ebola campaign song keeps doing the rounds, providing sound advice in many regional languages. Arguably the most famous contributor to the original is Malian legend Salif Keita which is why he has made it as this week’s Song of the Week. ‘Bobo’ is the opening track of his 2005 album M’Bemba.

Salif Keita – Bobo

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