CONTENDING WITH COVID-19 IN NIGERIA: MUSIC TO THE RESCUE
Nweke, Florence is a lecturer in the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which started in Wuhan China in December, 2019, is still ravaging the world, leaving in its trail, tears, sorrow, disillusion, and death of multitudes. Nigeria not left out of the devastation since the index case - an Italian was established on February 27th, 2020. Despite the assurance by governmental authorities on Nigeria’s preparedness to deal with the pandemic, the nation seems overwhelmed. Even though various measures have been put in place by the government to halt the spread of the virus, the number of infected people as at 4th May 2020 hit 2,802 and keeps increasing at an exponential rate daily. This is largely because the populace seems ignorant of the guidelines in place to contain the spread of the virus. Media reports show that after the relaxation of the lockdown, multitude trooped out in Lagos and the FCT Abuja, without nose mask, not observing social distancing at the ATM, bus stops, banks, and other public places.
Studies have highlighted the role of music as a catalyst for inducing attitudinal change as well as being a useful instrument of sensitization and mobilizing the populace for the attainment of national goals. I therefore advocate for the use of music as an instrument of sensitization and mobilization in the war against the COVID-19 pandemic.
All known human societies engage in music. Music possesses the power to move our passions. However, it is more than the sound produced for enjoyment or the elicitation of effect. Music can be an integral component of coping with unexpected outcome change, as well as enforcing social order or can be central to the maintenance of aspects of the common law. Music is also suggested as being a viable tool in creating awareness embedded in other domains of social actions. The power of music in fostering change in attitude or remodelling the habits of the citizenry is incredible. Getting straight into the human mind is possible through music whenever one is exposed to music in a consistent manner. Music achieved great success in the fight against apartheid in the late ’80s, as music used to galvanized Africans in the battle to dismantle the obnoxious Apartheid system in South Africa.
From a health perspective, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported the roles music played in 2014 in Liberia to contain the spread of the Ebola Virus. Liberia was one of the West African countries severely affected by the 2014 Ebola Virus Disease outbreak. A young musician – Charles Yegba – raised public awareness about the virus. Both the symptoms of the disease (headache, diarrhoea, or vomiting) and measure recommended to contain the spread, were all in the composed song. The song and his message were across Liberia through the audio-visual media (recorded music and video), Indeed, music was a reliable channel to reach out to the community and the nation at large. Similarly, music was used as an instrument in Public Health Education by Professor Carlos Chirinos-Espin, a clinical Assistant professor of music business at New York University who developed the Africa Stop Ebola awareness campaign song.
Responding to the Coronavirus pandemic with its global spread can also be more effectively if we use music as an instrument in mobilizing the Nigerian populace in the battle against COVID-19
Even though some some songs have been dedicated to the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, they are yet to achieve the required effect of triggering public behaviour. For music to be an effective instrument in the battle against COVID-19, it has to be planned, systematic and sustained. Nigeria is a heterogeneous society and to get to the diverse populace, various musicians with mass appeal have to collaborate. For example, when Onyeka Owenu and King Sunny Ade performed a duet -Wait for me in the 1980s to promote family planning The song was a hit, but the music not sustained for long term benefits to the target population.
With regards to COVID-19, one can leverage on the sectoral appeal that various artists have to extend the message to targeted groups. For instance, when Daddy Showkey sings, Ajegunle generally responds enthusiastically. The same can be said of fuji musician - Wasiu Alabi (a.k.a Pasuma) singing for the Mushin crowd or Victor Uwaifo singing for the Edo audience. Artists like WizKid, Davido, Tuface and Tiwa Savage can influence quicker behaviourial change among the youth while the same goes for Fela Anikulapo Kuti's sons - Seun, and Femi Kuti who can go further by ensuring that Afrika shrine devotees follow the social distancing rules.
For any music on COVID-19 to make the desired impact, electronic media must sustain the tempo with generous airtime until the message begins to accomplished the desired objectives in the attitude of the public. The random application cannot achieve the desired goals; hence, the need for a planned, systematic, and sustained approach.
Carlos Chirinos-Espin on Ebola Songs: https://www.mixcloud.com/SOASradio/rita-ray-presents-ebola-music-special/
Cross, I., & Woodruff, G. E. (2009). Music as a communicative medium. In R. Botha & C. Knight (Eds.) The prehistory of language (Vol. 1, pp. 113–144). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Nweke, F.E. (2018). Music as a Tool for Combating Human Trafficking. A Festschrift in Honour of Professor Mereni, A.V.E. by the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos, Nigeria. University of Lagos Press.
WHO Liberia: Spreading the word about Ebola through music. https://www.who.int/features/2014/ebola-through-music/en/
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development or the University of Lagos, Nigeria.