African Artistes Raise Health Workers to the Stars, See Future in Roses
Lusaka, June 4: All countries across Africa, like elsewhere in the world, have recorded at least a positive case of the novel Coronavirus code-named Covid-19. To date, the infection case count all over Africa stands over 150,000. At the time of going to press June 5, Lesotho was on record as the least affected in Africa and standing on position N0. 213 globally with only 4 Covid-19 confirmed positive cases.
Health workers in Africa, like their counterparts in other parts of the world have been exposed, with fatalities in some cases as they battle to provide care to infected persons. Despite the noticeable risks involved with handling infected persons, especially grappling with inappropriate equipment and protective gear in most cases, these health workers have not relented in their efforts to save lives.
The sacrifices of the health workers have not gone unnoticed, as artistes from 11 African countries have joined hands and released a song titled “My White Army” in appreciation of these ‘warriors’ for life across the continent who are working tirelessly to treat infected persons as well as contain the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The song, performed in three languages, Arabic, English, and French features artistes from North, Southern, East, and West African countries was released June 1. .
Producer and director Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Executive Officer of Merck Foundation, an organization at the helm of the ‘more than a mother ‘ initiative that speaks to de-stigmatizing infertility, tells Timescape the Pan African song aims to thank the doctors, nurses and other health workers fighting on the frontlines of the Coronavirus battle.
“This is my personal contribution towards the response to Coronavirus pandemic. In what has now become a global way of showing support and appreciation for medical workers around the world, during Coronavirus battle…’ Dr Kelej says.
She notes that it was a difficult task to bring the 11 artistes together during the lockdown but notes that the singers were all cooperative and agreed to work together virtually. She is hopeful that this is the beginning of a change of attitude towards health workers.
“I don’t want this to be a one-off thank you, but one that becomes a regular act of gratitude across our communities. I have heard stories of horrible behaviour against our health workers, such as, property owners are forcefully evicting them due to paranoia that they might spread Covid-19. It is shocking, illegal and inhuman behaviour,” she says.
Through the song, the singers are expressing love, respect, and gratitude to doctors, nurses, and health workers, the front lines of coronavirus battle. This is the first time in Africa that such number of artistes from over ten countries have come together to sing in three to support health workers in dire circumstances.
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Ghanaian gospel singer, Hermon Cyrus Kwesi Nhyira Oteng ‘aka’ Kwesi Oteng is credited with writing the lyrics of My White Army. Oteng who is renowned for his unique signature of urban sounds with western contemporary elements fused with strong cross-cultural African rhythms is elated that for the first time in Africa, singers from 11 African countries have participated in one song, to support a philanthropic initiative.
Oteng, also, a pastor of Flow River Church and a creative director has told Timescape magazine that he feels great adding that any opportunity to honour heroes is a welcome idea for him.
“Dr. Kelej called me and asked if I could put an idea together. I did the song right after our conversation; that was within three hours. The inspiration was the opportunity to do a song that honours amazing people…,” he explains with verve. He adds that it is amazing to see how close Africans have become after such a tragic global disaster and is confident that greater things will come out of Africa after this season ends.
Oteng sees the initiative as a harbinger of better days for health workers across Africa: “I look forward to seeing the song go deep into the nations and also to see our health sector and workers get everything they deserve to better their work. I look forward to a renewed level of respect and honour for our health workers and facilities should move to the highest levels everywhere”.
Gospel singer Oteng is not the only among the eleven participating artistes to see a line of silver in the scourge brought by the Coronavirus pandemic. Zambian singer and songwriter Victoria Wezi Mhone known in music circles as Wezi or Wezi HeartSound says the joint song is about celebrating Africa’s unity in rising above the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Wezi who won the most outstanding female musician for Zambia’s 2019 edition of the Ngoma award says it is an honour to have been picked to be one of the participations in the production of the pan African song.
“We need to understand that as Africa we are one and we need to fight the virus together but again charity begins at home, so all the front line workers should know that the battle starts from their own countries,” she tells Timescape, expressing confidence that the song will have a positive impact in the lives of many African citizens and create a culture shift towards appreciating health workers.
Other artists who took part in the initiative are, Salatiel Livenja Bessong, the famous Cameroonian singer who sang with Beyoncé and Pharrell in the latest ‘Lion King’, and Thomas Muyombo aka Tom Close from Rwanda.
Mahmoud AL Leithy, a famous singer, and actor from Egypt sang his part in Arabic to represent African Arabic speaking countries. The rest of the group are famous singers in their own countries. They include Alexander Bogonza aka ‘A Pass’ from Uganda, Kambua from Kenya, Oyenile Laoye professionally known as Nikki from Nigeria, Rosemarie Mustapha aka Rozzy from Sierra Leone, Sean Kamati from Namibia, and Sunita Daffeh from The Gambia.
NB: This story has been updated and a few new details added, with some editorial lapses corrected.