Halfway into Chocolate Moose Media’s In Praise of Prevention, the second of three animated videos aimed at Ebola and West Africa, Andrew Huggett’s score starts to pick up tempo from the early sad, almost dirge-like melody. As a young girl imagines how she is going to tell her church members about the lessons she’s learned from her brother’s death from Ebola, the music gathers strength and you can hear a human voice build the anticipation of the young girl’s narrative.
The vocal transition from background to foreground is almost unnoticeable, until it is driving the young lady’s words to her audience. This is Angelique Kidjo’s Grammy-Award-winning musical gift: sublime texture building to complete control of the listener. It is also how she lives her life.
Kidjo is a well-known international activist and singer from Benin, in West Africa. She is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and co-founder of the Batonga Foundation for Girls Education, among many other efforts. She does this quietly and efficiently, preferring results to headlines. Until she gets angry enough to grab the microphone. One example happened earlier this year.
The world’s media response to the 2014/2015 Ebola epidemic centred in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, about 500 miles from Benin, was completely under-whelming, according to the singer. “I thought Ebola would bring greater journalism, that they’d write about the need for great nurses and great doctors, or how every human being on this planet has the right to a good healthcare system. I’d hoped they’d show the beauty of the people. But it’s much more dramatic and more entertaining to show us dying,” she told African Voices.
Kidjo then wrote an op-ed piece about the subject for the New York Times titled Don’t Let Ebola Dehumanize Africa. She’s done the same for AIDS, female genital mutilation and prejudice against homosexuality, blasting those who will not support more progressive approaches to these issues.
She immediately agreed to get involved in the Chocolate Moose Media project and found time to record her vocals at ayemusic in Brooklyn, New York, in the middle of a four-continent tour. For Huggett, who has scored all the NGO’s humanitarian work, the experience couldn’t have gone better.
“Working with Angelique was a real pleasure,” he says. ”She immediately understood what I was looking for. Her voice, rich with feeling, provides an emotional core for the song that will truly resonate with our audience.”
For Chocolate Moose Media founder and director Firdaus Kharas, Kidjo’s involvement will help push the video’s messages further into international consciousness. He hopes the steps to prevent the spread of Ebola will become ingrained in territories at risk because the disease is again raising its head.
“We were extremely happy when she agreed to do the vocals for the video. It was a perfect fit because she is from West Africa, sings in English and French and is such an advocate for all human rights. The work she did is amazing,” he says.
In Praise of Prevention is the second in a series of three video to help prevent another outbreak of the disease and to help support Ebola survivors. The first – Ebola: A Poem For The Living – was distributed in October 2014 in 17 West African languages during the height of the 2014/2015 Ebola epidemic. It has been viewed well over one million times online and has won multiple international media awards. The third – Beyond Survival – looks at the stigma associated with Ebola survivors and how to bring them back into mainstream society.
The new video opens after the death of the teenaged boy in the first video. Like the first, It was co-created and directed with South African Brent Quinn and sponsored by United Methodist Communications. It also involved the sponsorship of UNICEF Togo. The animation was done by Artha Animation in Mumbai, India. Beyond Survival was sponsored by Catholic Relief Services.
All Kharas’ videos can be seen, downloaded and used for free, on his Vimeo channel.