The Epidemic Song

Even if you’ve paid only a passing amount of attention to world news, you know that hundreds of people have become infected with the Ebola virus in western Africa — and the vast, vast majority of those infected have died or almost certainly will due to the virus. There’s a lot of hysteria around the spread of the disease but for now, it’s mostly contained in the nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. While the disease has no known cure or vaccine, it doesn’t spread unless an uninfected person comes in contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or animal. Containing the outbreak is likely manageable — especially if regions can spread awareness of the disease.

But awareness can be a bigger challenge than expected, especially in regions where there is already a large distrust of government. Per a recent NPR story, many in Liberia believed that the Ebola virus wasn’t real; instead, “many thought it was a trick made up by the government as a way to make money.” But three men have taken up the challenge of convincing the people otherwise — with meaningful success. Those men are known as D-12, Shadow and Kuzzy of 2 Kings. They’re rappers, and they wrote a song called “Ebola in Town.”

And it’s become a smash hit.

The song’s refrain is below and you can listen to the whole thing on Soundcloud, here. It warns people in the area to abstain from interpersonal contact, noting that kissing, and further physical expressions of intimacy are, ultimately, some of the ways the disease spreads:

Ebola in town
Don’t touch your friend!
No touching
No eating something [that’s a euphemism]
It’s dangerous!Ebola
Ebola in town
Don’t touch your friend!
No kissing
No eating something [still a euphemism]
It’s dangerous!

The song further notes that Ebola virus isn’t local to Liberia — it’s also in Guinea, per the song — and that Ebola is “more than HIV/AIDS” (which speaks volumes). The song warns listeners to be careful about how one shakes hands and to avoid eating the monkey, baboon, or bat meat as it may be infected. (Public Radio International has the complete lyrics here — click and scroll down a bit.) The lyrics are layered with what the Guardian called a “trippy electro-dance beat” and — take it from the person who listened to it multiple times to write the words you’re now reading — it’s pretty catchy. (I’m slightly concerned that I’m going to find myself walking around mindlessly singing about Ebola.)

Even though the song goes a bit overboard — as PRI notes, you can’t contract the virus simply by touching somebody — the rap has hopefully been effective in dispensing good advice otherwise. In another article about the song, the Telegraph noted that “in countries like Liberia and Guinea, where adult literacy is below 40 per cent, music, theatre and radio are regularly used to try to spread health messages as widely as possible.” The trio’s song is, therefore, a welcome weapon against the spread of Ebola. As the Guardian points out, “aside from comic relief, in a region with weak public health systems, the ebola song also communicates vital information needed to curb the virus” — and there may not be many other ways to accomplish that goal. In any event, it has proven popular, spreading throughout the region and heard commonly on cell phones. It’s even resulted in a “no touching dance” becoming common on the streets of the Liberian capital of Monrovia.

Bonus Fact: The Liberian flag, seen here, is very American looking. That’s not a coincidence. Liberia, as Wikipedia notes, “was founded, established, colonized and controlled by citizens of the United States and ex-Caribbean slaves as a colony for former African American slaves and their free black descendants.” The capital, Monrovia, is the only non-U.S. capital named after a former U.S. president.

From the ArchivesPrisencolinensinainciusol: A song about nothing that sounds like it’s about something. It’s not. It’s about nothing.

RelatedA karaoke machine.