Pan Africa host Jeff Spitzer-Resnick recently had the opportunity to interview Dipo Oyeleye, a UW Ph.D student, who shared some popular African music which has gone viral in Africa to battle COVID-19 along with his views on the impact of African music around the world.
Following is a transcript of the interview which originally aired on January 9th, edited for clarity. You can listen to the full recorded interview via the Soundcloud link above.
JSR: Hi, this is Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, your host here on Pan Africa, WORT 89.9 FM Madison. I’m really pleased with the help of one of our fellow PanAfrica hosts Linda Vakunta, DJ Linda, to now have an African Madisonian in the studio, so to speak, during COVID — Dipo Oyeleye. Welcome.
Dipo: Thank you. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
JSR: I happened to notice that you were in the newspaper and I thought that you had a very interesting background. Why don’t we just start off, Dipo? Where are you from originally?
Dipo: I’m from Nigeria.
JSR: What town in Nigeria?
Dipo: Yeah, I grew up in the bottom boats. I’m from the Southwest part of Nigeria.
JSR: Great. So what brought you to Madison?
Dipo: Schooling. I was fortunate to come here as a Fulbright scholar and then I went back and returned for grad studies.
JSR: So you’re at the UW then.
JSR: What do you study?
Dipo: I study my work and my research is on global, African and Black diaspora literature and popular news.
JSR: Great. As listeners heard, you sent me some music before we did the interview and I played a couple of cuts before the interview. We’ll play some more afterwards. Is there anything you want to tell our listeners about the music that you sent us?
Dipo: Well, basically they capture different perspectives on the response of African popular music to global life crisis, the coronavirus. And you would see that in some of the songs there’s an attempt at humor, like the one that uses a cat to be his voice, and different people talking about the pandemic and the emphasis on perception management.
So there’s another song, the one by Kofi Olomide that talks about, you know, COVID-19 being the result of the wrath of God on mankind since it’s been French, but that’s basically his perspective. Then we had another Christian group also promoting safety measures for preventing the spread of coronavirus, and other songs that just talk generally about how dangerous the virus is and what to think and how to prevent its spread.
So while all of them also discuss the spread of the virus and how to curtail it in different parts of different countries, they also emphasize the side that’s it’s a fight that could be won as you can tell in “We go win” which really like encourages people to do the right thing, to keep safe and to save all of us from contracting the virus.
JSR: That’s great. I really appreciate that, especially for the music that’s not in English. I play a lot of music that’s not in English, both on Pan Africa and when I host other world music shows such as Diaspora and I often wish, sometimes there’s translations available, but not always.
So I really appreciate that. I think the listeners will, too. I’m wondering, especially with your dissertation and working on African music and its place in the world, what do you think has been the response or in what way has music perhaps helped in Africa in terms of battling coronavirus?
Dipo: Well, I would say the impact is significant because first, songs helped to introduce new medical information in ways that public health services wouldn’t, like there’s a breakdown of the disease in ways that is familiar to the kind of sound, the kind of tone and the kind of way that an average Joe on the streets relates to information like that. I would say that also the music, because of the way they spread, the way the songs tend to circulate and go viral – if I may use the words “speak to,” you know, basically connecting with a large demographic. I think that’s some of the public service information in which some of these songs have gone viral on social media, they find out people make their own skits, their own priority of the songs and they share it. So there’s a way that music proliferates and touches, you know, everyone. Also in terms of perception management, some of the songs do a great job in curtailing the ecology of fear around the virus, by focusing more on how people can prevent its spread and how they can protect themselves and their families.
JSR: That’s fantastic. Maybe we can learn something from that here in this country, since obviously we’re doing a terrible job combating coronavirus here in this country. I have noticed in fact that many African nations are actually, despite much less developed economies, doing much better at battling Coronavirus than we are here in the United States.
Dipo, I wonder, as you think about both this music and your studies, do you have a message for our listeners about how we can think about African music and its place in the world? I know that’s a big question, maybe give our listeners a message.
Dipo: Basically, there are arguments that, though, I found travel without visa, right? There’s a new way in which Africans found population now, from the hopefully known Afrobeats, to South African House music to friends’ sounds, basically creating new communities in the diaspora. Like the advent of the African DJs and African clubs and you know, also just general gatherings of people for events and the fact that African music now is having a much more global impact in terms of collaboration with popularly known artists in the USA, in the UK, in almost every part of the world. So the place of African music right now is such that even like different parts of the world, I’m looking for innovative ways to recreate sound. It seems to me like in the 21st century, the train is moving towards the continent and the kind of musical production, artistic creativity that we can find.
That’s what makes it even much more significant in terms of the fact that now we have techno culture being relatively involved in the circulation of sound. By that, I mean like from the social media, from the way music leads from your YouTube to Spotify, to all these different media for people to access the sound. I think that’s a crucial point at which African music is getting bigger and more recognized globally. Also that would be attributed to the African diaspora, almost everywhere you’re going in the world there’s impact of the migration, the impact of also second, third generation of Africans or people of African descent are gravitating towards this sound.
JSR: That makes a lot of sense. It also indicates why, for example, our Pan Africa radio show Facebook page has over 2,000 followers. If you’re one of our listeners who’s on that page, thank you for that. And if you’re not, go ahead and like the Pan Africa Radio Show Facebook page and you’ll be receiving updates for not only our shows, but also we try to provide information about African music.
And because we stream the Pan Africa radio show worldwide we in fact do have listeners not only here in Madison, which of course we treasure, but also all over the world. I want to thank you so much, Dipo. I think this was enlightening and I really thank you for the music that you’ve provided.
I wish you well, I know you’ve finished your dissertation and you’re looking for work. I hope you are successful in that endeavor. Thank you!
Dipo: Thank you so much, Jeff. I really appreciate the time. Thanks!
(Photo credit: Folajimi Omole)
Here are links to the tunes that Dipo shared with Jeff, which aired on the January 9th edition of Pan Africa. Just click on the artist and title and it will take you to the You Tube versions of each song.