Beloved Zimbabwean musician Albert Nyathi and his long time talented colleague, Dereck Mpofu, have written and recorded a new song to raise awareness about the novel coronavirus and to encourage people to stay safe. Entitled “Apart/Together—We Stand Strong Against COVID,” the song was commissioned by ICAP at Columbia University as part of its rapid response to the global pandemic and was made possible by a generous philanthropic gift from business leader Dr. Bing Zhao.
“This song celebrates the power of the community to overcome a disease that is pushing us apart while also serving to inform listeners of the steps they can take to protect themselves and their community from COVID-19,” said Nyathi. “I hope this song empowers people to feel hopeful of their role in surmounting this crisis.” . “It is my pride to continue to work with this gifted young musician, Dereck Mpofu, with our teamwork allowing us to make a difference once again. It is our honor to save humanity“. I hope this song empowers people to feel hopeful and take the actions they need to take so we can all surmount this crisis.”
“It is always an honor working with the great Albert Nyathi and learning at the feet of the icon whilst doing a great cause,” said Dereck. “It is always an honor spreading awareness in the most unique way whilst providing people with entertainment at such a difficult time.”
Working with a group of talented local musicians, Nyathi and Mpofu were able to produce the song even as social distancing measures were in place in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, where they both live and work. The artists took advantage of multi-track recording to keep the musicians and singers safe while laying down the tracks of lush instrumentation and soaring vocals, which they then mixed together to create “Apart/Together.”
ICAP is releasing the “Apart/Together” accompanied by a video “slideshow” of ICAP-supported activities to respond to the pandemic. The video features photos taken by a group of young photographers living with HIV in Kisumu, Kenya. The photographers learned their craft through workshops designed by ICAP to provide emotional support and an outlet for expression for adolescents living with HIV.
This is not the duo’s first time working with ICAP to put music in the service of public health. When ICAP launched its Population-based HIV Impact Assessment survey in Zimbabwe in 2016, they recorded the “Knock Knock” song, which encouraged the people of Zimbabwe to welcome the field workers to their homes during the conduct of the ZIMPHIA survey. Recently, with a second ZIMPHIA survey underway to measure progress in the HIV response in the country, the “Knock Knock” song was put back on the airwaves, with some variation to suit the current survey.
Apart from Mpofu, Nyathi also worked with other talented artists, namely Tererai Mugwadi, Jah Signal, Fatima Katiji, Lwazi Tshabangu, Joseph Chonouriri and Mono Mukundu. In addition to the full-length version of “Apart/Together,” which contains lyrics in English, Shona, and Ndebele, the three major languages of Zimbabwe, Nyathi is currently producing a series of jingles in 10 regional languages, so as to reach far and wide. He is also aiming to create a version in Swahili, French, Arabic and Portuguese to reach populations throughout the African continent.
“We are so moved and inspired by this magnificent song,” said Wafaa El-Sadr, ICAP’s founder and director, who asked Nyathi to create the song. “Albert’s and Dereck’s gorgeous artistry is all the more wonderful for its role as a tool for public health. We cannot imagine a more profound use of music than this.”
“Apart/Together,” with its video accompaniment, can be heard here.
A global health leader since 2003, ICAP was founded at Columbia University with one overarching goal: to improve the health of families and communities. Together with its partners—ministries of health, large multilaterals, health care providers, and patients—ICAP strives for a world where health is available to all. To date, ICAP has addressed major public health challenges and the needs of local health systems through 6,000 sites across more than 30 countries.