'Shadow' And 'D-12' Sing An Infectious Song About Ebola

Aug 19, 2014
Originally published on August 19, 2014 10:29 am

Ebola has been responsible for many hundreds of deaths, for fear, for panic, for disbelief and anger.

And for a catchy dance song: "Ebola in Town."

The producers behind this unlikely music are Samuel "Shadow" Morgan and Edwin "D-12" Tweh, who grew up in the shadow of war. They both spent time as kids in refugee camps in Ghana after fleeing the civil war back home in Liberia.

They made music together in the camp. Eventually they were able to move back to Monrovia, their country's capital, where they regularly meet up with other musicians in each other's home studios to make music together.

Back in May, Shadow, D-12 and their friend Kuzzy were hanging out at Shadow's studio, thinking about what to do next. Someone threw out the idea of a song about Ebola. They'd heard about the disease but not many of their friends were taking it seriously. Most people, they say, thought it was a trick made up by the government as a way to make money.

Shadow and his collaborators have made music about social issues before – deadbeat dads, sanitation. And even though they weren't sure exactly how bad Ebola was at the time, they did think that people should pay more attention to the disease.

So they laid down a beat and a melody and improvised the vocals. They finished the song in a day. That night, Shadow uploaded the song to the Internet and started sharing it with friends and DJs. The very next day he heard the song playing all around the streets of Monrovia and on people's cell phones. Within three days it was all over the country and had inspired an original dance where dancers mimic kissing and hugging from a distance — a way to keep safe from infection in a country where people love to embrace when they meet.

Shadow and D-12 came to the U.S. in June to attend the Liberia Music Awards, held in Atlanta this year to get more press. They had five nominations and four wins.

Both men say that it was not until they arrived in the U.S. and started watching the news that they fully realized the extent of the Ebola outbreak. Back home, they say, there hadn't been much coverage. Both the health ministry and the government were slow to get the word out.

They're now visiting Shadow's brother in Minneapolis and hoping to do some benefit concerts while they're in the U.S. And they're worrying about the situation back home. D-12 recently heard that a friend in Liberia who works as a nurse had contracted the virus and is currently in treatment.

With Ebola raging in their country, they're not sure they want to go home anytime soon. But they hope their music can help raise money and awareness to combat the Ebola epidemic.

Here are the lyrics for Liberia's first Ebola song:

Something happen
Something in town

Oh yeah the news

I said something in town
Ebola in town
Don't touch your friend!
No touching

No eating something

It's dangerous!
Ebola in town

Don't touch your friend!
No kissing!
No eating something
It's dangerous!

I woke up in the morning

I started hearing people dem yelling

"Da what thing happen? What thing happen? Ma peekin' what thing?"
They sit down grab me

They say something in town

That thing that in town it quick to kill

That me scary-o

Ebola. Ebola in town.
I started yelling.

I started running.

What place I will go?
I go to Guinea.

I went everywhere.

Ebola. Ebola there.
I'm not going anywhere.
I'm right here.
I'm not going nowhere-o.
I'm right here.
I know the medicine.

That distant hugging
I said distant shaking
Distant kissing

Don't touch me!

Something in town-oh

Something in town-eh

Ebola in town.
It's dangerous-o.
Ebola is very wicked.
It can kill you quick quick.
Be careful how you shaking hands-o.
Be careful who you touch.

Ebola is more than HIV/AIDS.

It can kill you quick quick.

It can kill you fast fast.

Don't touch your friend.
Don't touch your friend.
I say it will kill you-o.

My pa Jehovah
Please save us from Ebola

Nowhere to go

Nowhere to hide

And I ain't come in town
My people, ya'll please take time

Take time before you get that disease
Don't overlook it

That thing it quick to kill

Na na na na. Ebola - o.
It's dangerous.
Don't take it for joke
My people, I saw it before
It coming too fast

Be on the safe side, you hear me?

If you like the monkey

Don't eat the meat
If you like the baboon
I said don't eat the meat
If you like the bat-o
Don't eat the meat
Ebola in town.

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Now in West Africa, the healthcare system has been overwhelmed by the Ebola outbreak that we've been reporting on. We are about to hear from a couple of musicians who are trying to help.


SHADOW AND KUZZY OF 2 KINGS: (Singing) Ebola - Ebola in town. Don't touch your friend. No touching. No eating something dangerous. Ebola - Ebola in town.


That's an awareness song being played on the radio warning people about the disease and explaining how to avoid it. It was written in by Edwin D-12 Tweh and Samuel Shadow Morgan.

GREENE: When they were working in their studio in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, back in May, no one was sure what to think about the outbreak. The government wasn't saying much and there wasn't much on the news either.


SHADOW AND KUZZY OF 2 KINGS: (Singing) I woke up in the morning. I started hearing people dem (ph) yelling. Da (ph) what thing happen? What thing happen? Ma pekin (ph) what thing? Eh, man.

EDWIN D-12 TWEH: There was no proof that this thing was real.

SAMUEL SHADOW MORGAN: No, no, no. They didn't take it seriously at all.

TWEH: Everybody thought it was a trick of the government to try and get some money, you know.

MORGAN: We were at the studio at night thinking, you know, what do. Like can we do a song? Yeah, we can do a song.

TWEH: The best thing we can do is to make a song out of it and make the people realize this is truth.


SHADOW AND KUZZY OF 2 KINGS: (Singing) E B O L A - Ebola - Ebola in town.

TWEH: Our other friend were like, yo, man, don't you think this is too hot, you know, it's too strong to be an awareness song? Most awareness songs are always quiet songs.


SHADOW AND KUZZY OF 2 KINGS: (Singing) Ebola - it's dangerous.

MORGAN: The beat that we used to create the song - the beat is kind of catchy. And it's danceable, you know. Everybody wants to dance and jump up and like that so...

TWEH: We started a promotion from the street DJs, because in Liberia there are, you know, DJs all over the street. They transferred our music to phones and laptops and whatsoever. So we started a promotion from them.


SHADOW AND KUZZY OF 2 KINGS: (Singing) I know the medicine. That distant hugging - I said distant shaking, distant kissing. Don't touch me. Ebola - Ebola in town. Don't touch your friend. No touching.

TWEH: This song became a crazy - a crazy - a crazy hit. Seriously.

MORGAN: Everywhere in the streets.

TWEH: Everywhere in the streets.


SHADOW AND KUZZY OF 2 KINGS: (Singing) If you like the monkey, don't eat the meat. If you like the baboon, I said don't eat the meat. If you like the bat-o, don't eat the meat. Ebola.

MCEVERS: That's the song "Ebola in Town" by Liberian musicians Samuel Shadow Morgan and Edwin D-12 Tweh. We spoke to them from Minnesota, where they're visiting Shadow's brother and trying to set up a benefit concert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.