1. Rumor Patrol: No, A Snake In A Bag Did Not Cause Ebola
"A lady had a snake in a bag. When somebody opened the bag, that made the lady die."
That’s the beginning of a story that Temba Morris often hears about the origins of Ebola. Morris runs a government health clinic in a remote village near Sierra Leone’s border with Guinea. According to the story, somebody else then looked inside the bag.
"And the one who opened the bag also died," is what Morris hears next. The snake escaped into the Sierra Leone bush.
So there you have it: Ebola is an evil snake that will kill you if you look at it.
The striking thing about this story, which is told and retold, is that Ebola really did come here from Guinea, and it currently is out of the bag.
But narratives like this are a dangerous distraction when health officials are dealing with a virus that spreads by human-to-human contact — and a lack of knowledge about how to stay safe.
In the remote northeastern corner of Sierra Leone, dozens of new Ebola cases are being reported each week. As the virus spreads, so do rumors about the terrifying disease.
The first is that Ebola doesn’t exist. Some say it’s a ploy to extract money from the international aid agencies. Others say the people aren’t dying from Ebola, they’re dying from a curse.
Then there are people who accept that it exists but have unorthodox ideas about how it got there.
Continue reading.
Photo: Eerie protective suits and shiny body bags have fueled rumors about the origins of Ebola. Here, a burial team removes the body of a person suspected to have died from the virus in the village of Pendembu, Sierra Leone. (Tommy Trenchard for NPR) View in High-Res

    Rumor Patrol: No, A Snake In A Bag Did Not Cause Ebola

    "A lady had a snake in a bag. When somebody opened the bag, that made the lady die."

    That’s the beginning of a story that Temba Morris often hears about the origins of Ebola. Morris runs a government health clinic in a remote village near Sierra Leone’s border with Guinea. According to the story, somebody else then looked inside the bag.

    "And the one who opened the bag also died," is what Morris hears next. The snake escaped into the Sierra Leone bush.

    So there you have it: Ebola is an evil snake that will kill you if you look at it.

    The striking thing about this story, which is told and retold, is that Ebola really did come here from Guinea, and it currently is out of the bag.

    But narratives like this are a dangerous distraction when health officials are dealing with a virus that spreads by human-to-human contact — and a lack of knowledge about how to stay safe.

    In the remote northeastern corner of Sierra Leone, dozens of new Ebola cases are being reported each week. As the virus spreads, so do rumors about the terrifying disease.

    The first is that Ebola doesn’t exist. Some say it’s a ploy to extract money from the international aid agencies. Others say the people aren’t dying from Ebola, they’re dying from a curse.

    Then there are people who accept that it exists but have unorthodox ideas about how it got there.

    Continue reading.

    Photo: Eerie protective suits and shiny body bags have fueled rumors about the origins of Ebola. Here, a burial team removes the body of a person suspected to have died from the virus in the village of Pendembu, Sierra Leone. (Tommy Trenchard for NPR)

  2. Global Health

    Ebola

    Sierra Leone

    West Africa

    Guinea

  1. Don’t Pop That Bubble Wrap! Scientists Turn Trash Into Test Tubes
Hate to burst your bubble, glass lab gear. But plastic bubble wrap also works pretty well at running science experiments.
Scientists at Harvard University have figured out a way to use these petite pouches as an inexpensive alternate to glass test tubes and culture dishes. They even ran glucose tests on artificial urine and anemia tests on blood, all with the samples sitting inside bubble wrap.
"Most lab experiments require equipment, like test tubes or 96-well assay plates,” says chemist George Whitesides, who led the study. “But if you go out to smaller villages [in developing countries], these things are just not available.”
One glass test tube can cost between $1 and $5. Bubble wrap, by contrast, is dirt cheap. One square foot of it, with about 100 to 500bubbles depending on bubble dimensions, costs only 6cents, Whitesides and his team reported Thursdayin the journal Analytical Chemistry.
"You can take out a roll of bubble wrap, and you have a bunch of little test tubes," he says. "This is an opportunity to potentially use material that would otherwise have been thrown away."
Whitesides is a master at converting cheap, everyday materials into lab equipment. He’s made a centrifuge from an egg beater and CD player. And he’s designed aglucose detector from paper and tape.
While visiting scientists around the world, Whitesides noticed that many labs in developing countries don’t even have simple pieces of equipment, such as test tubes for running blood tests, storing urine samples or growing microbes.
That’s when the idea popped into his head: bubble wrap. The packaging material is readily available all over the globe, and scientists often have it around the lab because other equipment is shipped in it.
Continue reading.
Photo courtesy of American Chemical Society View in High-Res

    Don’t Pop That Bubble Wrap! Scientists Turn Trash Into Test Tubes

    Hate to burst your bubble, glass lab gear. But plastic bubble wrap also works pretty well at running science experiments.

    Scientists at Harvard University have figured out a way to use these petite pouches as an inexpensive alternate to glass test tubes and culture dishes. They even ran glucose tests on artificial urine and anemia tests on blood, all with the samples sitting inside bubble wrap.

    "Most lab experiments require equipment, like test tubes or 96-well assay plates,” says chemist George Whitesides, who led the study. “But if you go out to smaller villages [in developing countries], these things are just not available.”

    One glass test tube can cost between $1 and $5. Bubble wrap, by contrast, is dirt cheap. One square foot of it, with about 100 to 500bubbles depending on bubble dimensions, costs only 6cents, Whitesides and his team reported Thursdayin the journal Analytical Chemistry.

    "You can take out a roll of bubble wrap, and you have a bunch of little test tubes," he says. "This is an opportunity to potentially use material that would otherwise have been thrown away."

    Whitesides is a master at converting cheap, everyday materials into lab equipment. He’s made a centrifuge from an egg beater and CD player. And he’s designed aglucose detector from paper and tape.

    While visiting scientists around the world, Whitesides noticed that many labs in developing countries don’t even have simple pieces of equipment, such as test tubes for running blood tests, storing urine samples or growing microbes.

    That’s when the idea popped into his head: bubble wrap. The packaging material is readily available all over the globe, and scientists often have it around the lab because other equipment is shipped in it.

    Continue reading.

    Photo courtesy of American Chemical Society

  1. There’s such incredible amount of change that these children have to go through during a relatively short period of time. The amount of trauma or stress cannot be understated.

    — 

    Alan Shapiro, pediatrician and cofounder of immigrant youth clinic, Terra Firma

    Read more: The Immigrant Kids Have Health Issues — But Not The Ones You’d Think

  2. immigration

    central america

    unaccompanied minors

    tuberculosis

    vaccination

  1. Ebola Is A Deadly Virus — But Doctors Say It Can Be Beaten

    Saidu Kanneh was given a hero’s welcome last week when he walked into a community meeting about Ebola in a tiny village of mud huts in the Kissi Kama region of Sierra Leone. Kanneh was diagnosed with Ebola early in July, was treated for 12 days in a Doctors Without Borders hospital and overcame the disease.

    "God has made me as an example to survive and then get into the community to talk to my people," says Kanneh, who’s about 40 years old and runs a health clinic near the border with Guinea and Liberia. In treating Ebola cases, he too caught the disease — he thinks he may have been infected from contact with the bodily fluids that transmit the disease, perhaps because of a gap between his rubber gloves and his shirt sleeve.

    Kanneh’s message is that not every patient dies.

    And there are signs of hope: changes taking place that could be key to stopping the West African outbreak that began in March and has so far seen 1,032 cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with more than 600 deaths.

    "There is no cure but that does not mean we can’t treat it with success," says Tim Jagatic,a Canadian physician at the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kailahun where Kanneh was treated — a series of tents set up in a field.

    He says the human body can figure out how to combat it: “This is just a virus. It’s a virus like influenza. When we have influenza we know we stay home, take our fluids and let our bodies do the rest. That’s the same thing that we are doing here.

    Continue reading.

    Top: Sylvester Jusu, a Red Cross volunteer, wears a suit and goggles to protect himself from contracting Ebola.

    Bottom left: The burial team waits outside the house of someone who may have died of Ebola.

    Bottom right: The team is sprayed with disinfectant after removing the body.

    Photos by Tommy Trenchard for NPR

  2. Global Health

    Ebola

    Sierra Leone

    Doctors Without Borders

    burial

  1. In The World Of Global Gestures, The Fist Bump Stands Alone
Back in the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Barack Obama launched a media storm when he nonchalantly fist bumped his wife Michelle. “Obama’s Fist-bump Rocks The Nation!: The Huffington Post exclaimed. “Is the fist bump the new high-five?” NPR’s Laura Silverman asked.
Obama has done it again.
Earlier this month he cemented the gesture as part of his presidential persona when he fist bumped an employee at an Austin barbecue restaurant. Before taking Obama’s order, Daniel Rugg said, “Equal rights for gay people,” the Austin Chronicle reported. Then the presidential bump followed.
All this fist-to-fist action got us thinking: Where did the fist bump come from? Why is it so appealing that the president uses it? And do other cultures have similar nonverbal gestures?
The modern fist bump most likely evolved from the high-five in the sports world, says David Givens, an anthropologist with the Center for Nonverbal Studies in Spokane, Washington. The 1970s Baltimore Bullets guard Fred Carter was an early bumper, Time reported back in 2008. Eventually the fist bump became a way for friends to greet each other.
Givens believes that the fist bump stands out in the world of nonverbal gestures. “The fist bump is one of the few gestures that is equal,” he tells Goats and Sodas. “You could do it with President Obama, and you’d both be equals at that time.”
That’s because the knuckles are meeting at the same level — neither bumper has the upper hand, so to speak.
Continue reading.
Photo by Meredith Rizzo/NPR View in High-Res

    In The World Of Global Gestures, The Fist Bump Stands Alone

    Back in the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Barack Obama launched a media storm when he nonchalantly fist bumped his wife Michelle. “Obama’s Fist-bump Rocks The Nation!: The Huffington Post exclaimed. “Is the fist bump the new high-five?” NPR’s Laura Silverman asked.

    Obama has done it again.

    Earlier this month he cemented the gesture as part of his presidential persona when he fist bumped an employee at an Austin barbecue restaurant. Before taking Obama’s order, Daniel Rugg said, “Equal rights for gay people,” the Austin Chronicle reported. Then the presidential bump followed.

    All this fist-to-fist action got us thinking: Where did the fist bump come from? Why is it so appealing that the president uses it? And do other cultures have similar nonverbal gestures?

    The modern fist bump most likely evolved from the high-five in the sports world, says David Givens, an anthropologist with the Center for Nonverbal Studies in Spokane, Washington. The 1970s Baltimore Bullets guard Fred Carter was an early bumper, Time reported back in 2008. Eventually the fist bump became a way for friends to greet each other.

    Givens believes that the fist bump stands out in the world of nonverbal gestures. “The fist bump is one of the few gestures that is equal,” he tells Goats and Sodas. “You could do it with President Obama, and you’d both be equals at that time.”

    That’s because the knuckles are meeting at the same level — neither bumper has the upper hand, so to speak.

    Continue reading.

    Photo by Meredith Rizzo/NPR

  2. handshake

    fist bump

    communication

    president obama

  1. Straightening Sisay’s Spine: A Twist Of Fate Saves A Boy’s Life
One dewy morning back in May 2013, a dozen children gathered in an elementary school courtyard to play soccer in Addis Ababa. Seven-year-old Sisay Gudeta stood alone on the balcony above them.
Sisay poked his head through the arms of a rusty, blue guard rail, staring down at his classmates as they kickedan empty plastic bottle across the pavement. The kids rarely ask him to play, Sisay says. They are afraid to touch him, afraid of the bump on his back that stretches out his neatly pressed school sweater.
"He is such a beautiful child," Sisay’s grandmother says. "I ask God what I did to do this to him."
For reasons unknown, thousands of children in Ethiopia suffer from congenital spine conditions so severe that humps grow from their backs. Their spines resemble flattened pancakes and roller-coaster tracks, says Dr. Rick Hodes, an American who runs the only spine clinic in Addis Ababa, a city of 3 million people.
Such extreme scoliosis cases are found in many poor countries. But Hodes thinks that lack of screening and access to basic medical care leaves Ethiopia with some of the worst spines in the world.
If not effectively treated, scoliosis can lead to permanent deformity, disc injuries and neurological damage. Here in the U.S., the National Institutes of Health recommends doctors use a brace to help straighten a child’s back when the spine curves more than 25 to 30 degrees. When the curve reaches more than 45 degrees, surgery is often needed.
Yet thousands of Ethiopian children receive no medical treatment for their scoliosis. In villages, a traditional healer may try to flatten the child’s back by pressing hot rocks to the skin. Others with twisted spines and humpbacks are ostracized or abandoned and left to die.
Continue reading and view a slideshow at NPR.
Photo: Sisay Gudeta, then age 7, sits on his bed at his home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 2013. At the time, his spine curved about 120 degrees. Without surgery, Sisay’s scoliosis would have killed before age 18, doctors said. (Andrew Dickinson for NPR) View in High-Res

    Straightening Sisay’s Spine: A Twist Of Fate Saves A Boy’s Life

    One dewy morning back in May 2013, a dozen children gathered in an elementary school courtyard to play soccer in Addis Ababa. Seven-year-old Sisay Gudeta stood alone on the balcony above them.

    Sisay poked his head through the arms of a rusty, blue guard rail, staring down at his classmates as they kickedan empty plastic bottle across the pavement. The kids rarely ask him to play, Sisay says. They are afraid to touch him, afraid of the bump on his back that stretches out his neatly pressed school sweater.

    "He is such a beautiful child," Sisay’s grandmother says. "I ask God what I did to do this to him."

    For reasons unknown, thousands of children in Ethiopia suffer from congenital spine conditions so severe that humps grow from their backs. Their spines resemble flattened pancakes and roller-coaster tracks, says Dr. Rick Hodes, an American who runs the only spine clinic in Addis Ababa, a city of 3 million people.

    Such extreme scoliosis cases are found in many poor countries. But Hodes thinks that lack of screening and access to basic medical care leaves Ethiopia with some of the worst spines in the world.

    If not effectively treated, scoliosis can lead to permanent deformity, disc injuries and neurological damage. Here in the U.S., the National Institutes of Health recommends doctors use a brace to help straighten a child’s back when the spine curves more than 25 to 30 degrees. When the curve reaches more than 45 degrees, surgery is often needed.

    Yet thousands of Ethiopian children receive no medical treatment for their scoliosis. In villages, a traditional healer may try to flatten the child’s back by pressing hot rocks to the skin. Others with twisted spines and humpbacks are ostracized or abandoned and left to die.

    Continue reading and view a slideshow at NPR.

    Photo: Sisay Gudeta, then age 7, sits on his bed at his home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 2013. At the time, his spine curved about 120 degrees. Without surgery, Sisay’s scoliosis would have killed before age 18, doctors said. (Andrew Dickinson for NPR)

  2. Global Health

    scoliosis

    Ethiopia

    children's health

  1. Joep Lange, Who Died On Flight MH17, Changed The Way We Fight AIDS
The AIDS community is in shock over the news that dozens of its members were aboard the Malaysia Airlines flight that was apparently shot down Thursday. The sorrow is particularly widespread over the death of Joep Lange, a Dutch researcher and advocate, who played a pivotal role in the AIDS movement for more than three decades.
"We’ve lost one of the giants in our field," says Dr.Richard Marlink, who heads the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative. “We’ve lost a voice that I don’t think is easily replaced.”
Colleagues of Lange said his career embodied some of the most important shifts in the way scientists have approached the fight against HIV/AIDS: He gave patients and advocates more of a say in setting the research agenda, and he worked with governments and businesses to ensure that breakthroughs in treatment become available to even the poorest patients.
"[Lange’s] life’s work didn’t just reflect the changes in AIDS," Marlink says. "He led those changes."
Dr. Helene Gayle, who succeeded Lange for a two-year term as president of the International AIDS Society in 2004, agrees. “He could connect the dots between the different aspects of the HIV fight,” says Gayle, who is now president of the nonprofit CARE. “There are some people who are just clinicians, or some people who are just researchers, or just on the prevention and behaviorial side or the social side. He really understood it all. And he was truly a scientist with a heart.”
Lange, who was 61 and headed the department of global health at the University of Amsterdam, began his work on AIDS as a doctor and clinical researcher in the 1980s. His earliest contributions were scientific. He was the lead architect of many early trials of antiretroviral therapy and studied how to prevent HIV-positive pregnant women from transmitting the virus to their babies.
Continue reading. View in High-Res

    Joep Lange, Who Died On Flight MH17, Changed The Way We Fight AIDS

    The AIDS community is in shock over the news that dozens of its members were aboard the Malaysia Airlines flight that was apparently shot down Thursday. The sorrow is particularly widespread over the death of Joep Lange, a Dutch researcher and advocate, who played a pivotal role in the AIDS movement for more than three decades.

    "We’ve lost one of the giants in our field," says Dr.Richard Marlink, who heads the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative. “We’ve lost a voice that I don’t think is easily replaced.”

    Colleagues of Lange said his career embodied some of the most important shifts in the way scientists have approached the fight against HIV/AIDS: He gave patients and advocates more of a say in setting the research agenda, and he worked with governments and businesses to ensure that breakthroughs in treatment become available to even the poorest patients.

    "[Lange’s] life’s work didn’t just reflect the changes in AIDS," Marlink says. "He led those changes."

    Dr. Helene Gayle, who succeeded Lange for a two-year term as president of the International AIDS Society in 2004, agrees. “He could connect the dots between the different aspects of the HIV fight,” says Gayle, who is now president of the nonprofit CARE. “There are some people who are just clinicians, or some people who are just researchers, or just on the prevention and behaviorial side or the social side. He really understood it all. And he was truly a scientist with a heart.”

    Lange, who was 61 and headed the department of global health at the University of Amsterdam, began his work on AIDS as a doctor and clinical researcher in the 1980s. His earliest contributions were scientific. He was the lead architect of many early trials of antiretroviral therapy and studied how to prevent HIV-positive pregnant women from transmitting the virus to their babies.

    Continue reading.

  2. Joep Lange

    malaysia arilines

    flight mh17

    HIV/AIDS

    RIP

  1. An ‘Overhappy’ Survivor, A Guarded Forecast: Reporting On Ebola
NPR’s Jason Beaubien is in Sierra Leone, covering the Ebola outbreak that began in March in Guinea and has spread to neighboring countries. When we spoke Friday, he had an inspirational story to share.
Between the plane shot down in Ukraine and the war in Gaza, this has been a sad week for the world. How are things in Sierra Leone?
I have some good news for you. Today I was at that corner of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where the first cases of Ebola [were reported]. I was following around MSF [Doctors Without Borders]. They’re training volunteers to explain to the community what causes Ebola, what the symptoms are, how to protect yourself.
We’re in this meeting with probably three dozen people, and this guy walks in. He is the former health officer from the region called Koindu, which sits right up against the [Guinea] border. And he got Ebola.
He had just gotten out of the treatment center this week. He walked in to this hero’s welcome; everyone started cheering and clapping. It was like he was taking the stage in The Price Is Right. He came running up to the front of the room, declaring that he’s free [of Ebola] and that he survived. It was this incredibly joyful moment.
What was his name, and how did he look?
He’s Saidu Kanneh, and he’s about 40 years old. He just had this spring in his step, this incredible smile across his face. He was full of energy. He was planning to spread the word that you can survive this. He refers to himself as “overhappy.”
Does he know how he was infected?
He was one of the first medical workers dealing with cases. He said he was working with this woman who had Ebola. He was wearing rubber gloves, but there was a gap between the gloves and his shirt. He believes that’s how it happened.
How long was he ill?
He spent 12 days in the treatment center in Kailahun and got out this week, completely cured. MSF people tell me no virus could be detected in him anymore.
Continue reading.
Photo: Saidu Kanneh speaks to the community in Koindu, Sierra Leone, about surviving Ebola. He spent 12 days in a treatment center and was released this week. (Tommy Trenchard for NPR) View in High-Res

    An ‘Overhappy’ Survivor, A Guarded Forecast: Reporting On Ebola

    NPR’s Jason Beaubien is in Sierra Leone, covering the Ebola outbreak that began in March in Guinea and has spread to neighboring countries. When we spoke Friday, he had an inspirational story to share.

    Between the plane shot down in Ukraine and the war in Gaza, this has been a sad week for the world. How are things in Sierra Leone?

    I have some good news for you. Today I was at that corner of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where the first cases of Ebola [were reported]. I was following around MSF [Doctors Without Borders]. They’re training volunteers to explain to the community what causes Ebola, what the symptoms are, how to protect yourself.

    We’re in this meeting with probably three dozen people, and this guy walks in. He is the former health officer from the region called Koindu, which sits right up against the [Guinea] border. And he got Ebola.

    He had just gotten out of the treatment center this week. He walked in to this hero’s welcome; everyone started cheering and clapping. It was like he was taking the stage in The Price Is Right. He came running up to the front of the room, declaring that he’s free [of Ebola] and that he survived. It was this incredibly joyful moment.

    What was his name, and how did he look?

    He’s Saidu Kanneh, and he’s about 40 years old. He just had this spring in his step, this incredible smile across his face. He was full of energy. He was planning to spread the word that you can survive this. He refers to himself as “overhappy.”

    Does he know how he was infected?

    He was one of the first medical workers dealing with cases. He said he was working with this woman who had Ebola. He was wearing rubber gloves, but there was a gap between the gloves and his shirt. He believes that’s how it happened.

    How long was he ill?

    He spent 12 days in the treatment center in Kailahun and got out this week, completely cured. MSF people tell me no virus could be detected in him anymore.

    Continue reading.

    Photo: Saidu Kanneh speaks to the community in Koindu, Sierra Leone, about surviving Ebola. He spent 12 days in a treatment center and was released this week. (Tommy Trenchard for NPR)

  2. Global Health

    Ebola

    Sierra Leone

    infectious disease

    recovery

  1. Sizing Down Food Waste: What’s The Worst Thing To Toss?
Sometimes I feel like a broken record at home: “Let’s eat the leftovers for dinner, so they don’t go to waste,”
But inevitably, Sunday night’s pasta and meatballs get tossed out of the refrigerator to make way for Friday night’s pizza.
Now scientists at the University of Minnesota offer up another reason to put those leftover meatballs in the tummy instead of the garbage: There are hidden calories in the beef that go to waste when you toss it.
These invisible calories could help out the 1 in 6 Americans who don’t get enough to eat each day, just as easily as the meatballs themselves. And when you add them all up, these hidden calories are enough to help the world feed a rapidly rising population, ecologists report Thursday in the journal Science.
About a third of all food grown around the world never gets eaten. Americans alone waste up to about 1,200 calories per person each day.
But not all these calories are equal, when you look at how they hurt the global food supply, says ecologist Paul West, who led the study.
Discarding a pound of boneless beef effectively wastes 24 times more calories than discarding a pound of wheat, West and his team report. Why? Because the beef also contains all the calories in the corn that fed the cow.
"If you throw out some arugula at a fancy restaurant in upstate New York, it doesn’t have much impact on the world’s food system," West says. "But throwing out a small steak has a huge impact — maybe more than all the arugula in the restaurant put together."
Continue reading.
Photo by Morgan Walker/NPR View in High-Res

    Sizing Down Food Waste: What’s The Worst Thing To Toss?

    Sometimes I feel like a broken record at home: “Let’s eat the leftovers for dinner, so they don’t go to waste,”

    But inevitably, Sunday night’s pasta and meatballs get tossed out of the refrigerator to make way for Friday night’s pizza.

    Now scientists at the University of Minnesota offer up another reason to put those leftover meatballs in the tummy instead of the garbage: There are hidden calories in the beef that go to waste when you toss it.

    These invisible calories could help out the 1 in 6 Americans who don’t get enough to eat each day, just as easily as the meatballs themselves. And when you add them all up, these hidden calories are enough to help the world feed a rapidly rising population, ecologists report Thursday in the journal Science.

    About a third of all food grown around the world never gets eaten. Americans alone waste up to about 1,200 calories per person each day.

    But not all these calories are equal, when you look at how they hurt the global food supply, says ecologist Paul West, who led the study.

    Discarding a pound of boneless beef effectively wastes 24 times more calories than discarding a pound of wheat, West and his team report. Why? Because the beef also contains all the calories in the corn that fed the cow.

    "If you throw out some arugula at a fancy restaurant in upstate New York, it doesn’t have much impact on the world’s food system," West says. "But throwing out a small steak has a huge impact — maybe more than all the arugula in the restaurant put together."

    Continue reading.

    Photo by Morgan Walker/NPR

  2. Food security

    food waste

    agriculture

    India

  1. She’s Got A Perfect Afro — And A Melodious Vision For African Musicians
In February, Ethiopian-born singer Meklit Hadero was flying home from Uganda to the U.S. when her plane had to land unexpectedly near the Arctic Circle. It was so cold that to keep her fingers warm she put on oven mitts (decorated with an African print) that she’d bought to bring home.
A fellow passenger introduced himself: Leelai Demoz, he’s Ethiopian, too. He’d just finished co-producing Difret, a movie based on the true story of a 14-year-old Ethiopian girl abducted by a man who wanted to marry her; the girl shot him and was tried for murder.
Hadero and Demoz hung out, hoped to see the Northern Lights (no luck, it was foggy). By coincidence, a few weeks later, Hadero got a call from Lincoln Center to see if she’d sing at a screening of Difret.
So it’s a small world for global artists.
And that’s especially true for African musicians who’ve come to the West. They can get together and mix it up in diaspora more readily than on the continent, says Hadero, who left Ethiopia as a toddler in 1981 and now lives in the Bay Area. “There are 437 million people in the Nile Basin. There are all sorts of political tensions around how we share water,” she says. “There are barriers to getting to know each other. There’s not a lot of access.”
Her solution was to co-found the Nile Project, along with Egyptian ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis. They invite musicians from the 10 countries along the Nile River to play together and record an album. She was returning from a three-weeks session in Kampala, Uganda, when she had her Arctic detour.
Back home, Hadero talked about her music, how the Nile Project has changed it — and what it’s like to be compared to Joni Mitchell. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Did you contribute any songs to the movie?
No, but I wrote a song for the [concert]. It doesn’t have a name yet. It’s about the strength and resilience of women and what happens when a personal story becomes a way for a whole country to move forward around a particular issue. The story of the film is how [this practice of abducting a bride] became illegal.
Your new album, We Are Alive, draws from Ethiopia as well — you sing “Kemekem,” an Ethiopian folk song.
Kemekem is a slang term in Amharic for freshly mown grass. It’s applied to an afro that has been perfectly cut and coiffed. “Kemekem” is a love song sung to a person with a perfect afro. The lyrics are very cute: “You live at the top of the hill, I live at the bottom. Just roll on down and meet me at the bottom.”
Continue reading.
Photo: Ethiopian-born singer Meklit Hadero shows off her guitar chops and her perfect afro. (Cody Pickens) View in High-Res

    She’s Got A Perfect Afro — And A Melodious Vision For African Musicians

    In February, Ethiopian-born singer Meklit Hadero was flying home from Uganda to the U.S. when her plane had to land unexpectedly near the Arctic Circle. It was so cold that to keep her fingers warm she put on oven mitts (decorated with an African print) that she’d bought to bring home.

    A fellow passenger introduced himself: Leelai Demoz, he’s Ethiopian, too. He’d just finished co-producing Difret, a movie based on the true story of a 14-year-old Ethiopian girl abducted by a man who wanted to marry her; the girl shot him and was tried for murder.

    Hadero and Demoz hung out, hoped to see the Northern Lights (no luck, it was foggy). By coincidence, a few weeks later, Hadero got a call from Lincoln Center to see if she’d sing at a screening of Difret.

    So it’s a small world for global artists.

    And that’s especially true for African musicians who’ve come to the West. They can get together and mix it up in diaspora more readily than on the continent, says Hadero, who left Ethiopia as a toddler in 1981 and now lives in the Bay Area. “There are 437 million people in the Nile Basin. There are all sorts of political tensions around how we share water,” she says. “There are barriers to getting to know each other. There’s not a lot of access.”

    Her solution was to co-found the Nile Project, along with Egyptian ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis. They invite musicians from the 10 countries along the Nile River to play together and record an album. She was returning from a three-weeks session in Kampala, Uganda, when she had her Arctic detour.

    Back home, Hadero talked about her music, how the Nile Project has changed it — and what it’s like to be compared to Joni Mitchell. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    Did you contribute any songs to the movie?

    No, but I wrote a song for the [concert]. It doesn’t have a name yet. It’s about the strength and resilience of women and what happens when a personal story becomes a way for a whole country to move forward around a particular issue. The story of the film is how [this practice of abducting a bride] became illegal.

    Your new album, We Are Alive, draws from Ethiopia as well — you sing “Kemekem,” an Ethiopian folk song.

    Kemekem is a slang term in Amharic for freshly mown grass. It’s applied to an afro that has been perfectly cut and coiffed. “Kemekem” is a love song sung to a person with a perfect afro. The lyrics are very cute: “You live at the top of the hill, I live at the bottom. Just roll on down and meet me at the bottom.”

    Continue reading.

    Photo: Ethiopian-born singer Meklit Hadero shows off her guitar chops and her perfect afro. (Cody Pickens)

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