Benin

Members of the band including myself recently collaborated with students and teachers from CIAMO (International Center for Art and Music in Ouidah) and filmmaker Jon Fine and Sarah Dupont on a music + video project (still in progress) to promote methods of malaria prevention. Last year, malaria killed over 400,000 people on the African continent, so it remains a serious problem which destabilizes families and ruins lives and communities on a mass scale. The song and video outline the most effective steps that families can take to protect themselves: protect all members of your family, particularly children under 5, with a mosquito net from dusk until dawn, go to a community health clinic to get checked if you show symptoms.

I received a demo of a song recorded by Sim de Souza and his students at CIAMO last year. The melody and the lyrics - in French and Fon - were beautiful, the bridge, the verses, everything made sense. What we did was speed up the tempo, and suggest that they change the chorus from "We're afraid of you, malaria" to "We'll beat you, malaria". We wrote some horn lines, and tracked drums, bass, guitars, and horns in New York. Then, we sent the track to Angelique Kidjo, who recorded the verses on the song.

In late March, I as part of a four-person US-based crew, flew to Cotonou, Benin, to begin filming and recording the project. We spent our first night in Cotonou and a meeting at the US Embassy, where we met several partners from UNICEF, USAID and ISMA, the audiovisual college in Cotonou.