The new recording of Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" already looks set to be a huge hit. Irish singer Bob Geldof, who organized the re-recording to raise funds to fight Ebola, told the BBC on Monday that pre-sales of the song had been "extraordinary" and had raised millions in just minutes.
For a lot of people, however, the re-release of the Band Aid song leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Over the years, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" has been the subject of a variety of criticisms, with many people pointing toward the weird, inappropriate lyrics or the patronizing spectacle of so many white, Western artists singing to an amorphous, anonymous group of Africans. And while Geldof has changed the worst of the lyrics for this most recent re-release, there's still only one African artist singing on the track (Angélique Kidjo, a Grammy-winning singer and songwriter from Benin).
There is another option, thankfully, for music fans who worry about Ebola: a song actually written and recorded by West African artists that is also aimed toward a West African audience. Its title? Simply, "Africa Stop Ebola."
The track, recorded and released last month, has brought together some of the biggest stars from West Africa's rich music scene: Major artists including Ivorian reggae star Tiken Jah Fakoly, Mali's afro-pop singer Salif Keita and Senegalese rapper Didier Awadi are involved.
It is, quite frankly, a better song than its Western equivalent. But more importantly, this is not a song vaguely about Africans in peril. The lyrics were written jointly by the artists and Carlos Chirino of SOAS, University of London. They speak directly to the citizens of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone in a mixture of languages, including French and indigenous languages spoken in the region.
Thus, you'll find specific and practical advice in the song: The singers advise listeners to wash their hands and listen to doctors, how to deal with the dead, and other issues. In an situation in which misinformation and fear are some of the biggest problems, this is a pertinent message. The song is also raising money for Doctors Without Borders, one of the nongovernmental organizations on the ground fighting the disease (you can buy the song on iTunes here).
"Africa Stop Ebola" is just one of a number of songs about Ebola produced in West Africa. Earlier this summer, Liberian artists F.A., Soul Fresh and DenG released a Hip Co song that included similar advice on how the disease was spread.
That song was created in conjunction with UNICEF, but other local artists have produced their own songs without outside input. That's because for these musicians, Ebola isn't some distant, exotic threat: It's a concern in their real lives, and it directly influences their music.
The backlash against the new release of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" does seem to be evidence of slowly changing attitudes to Africa: Some mainstream Western artists have even criticized the concept this time around. It is undeniable that it's a worthy cause, and readers can donate here. But they also can download "Africa Stop Ebola" or even donate directly to Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) or any of the local groups fighting Ebola.