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Reaching out to the youth, hip-hop style
March 2007 (PlusNews)

Photo: Waayaha Cusub/IRIN
Shineh Abdullahi Ali (centre) and members of his band, Waayaha Cusub
KENYA, Shineh Abdullahi Ali, in his early twenties, is a Somali refugee living in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Passionate about music, he is using his talent to raise awareness about the HIV pandemic in his traditionally conservative society.

Hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees fled to neighbouring Kenya after civil war broke out in their country in 1991, so the Somali youth in Nairobi have been brought up with traditional Somali and Muslim values, but have also been influenced by local Kenyan and Western trends. Ali's music blends traditional Somali ballads with a hip-hop style.

He spoke to PlusNews about the purpose of his band's music.

"My group is called Waayaha Cusub, which means 'A New Era' in Somali. Many Somalis do not believe that AIDS exists at all, yet it exists even within our own community.

We target the youth with the HIV message because AIDS is a catastrophe that requires us to act now. We try to convince them that they need to abstain from behaviour that could put them in danger of AIDS.

To make the message more convincing, we have HIV-positive people help us show the reality of it; there is a Somali woman who tells the youth her story and proves that it is a real threat. Even in our videos, we show people who are sick to make sure the youth know the disease is real.

One of our videos shows a Sheikh [Islamic scholar] asking a young couple for proof of an HIV test before he agrees to perform their marriage ceremony; this is what should be happening in real life.

The songs educate people about the importance of abstaining from pre- or extra-marital sex, and not sharing sharp objects like razors, a common practice in the community. We also teach them how to treat HIV-positive people, not to stigmatise them or discriminate against them just because they are infected.

We think we are making a difference because our music is very popular both here in Kenya and in Somalia, where different radio stations play it. Our videos are also broadcast via satellite television in Somalia, and have even been featured on South Africa's Channel 'O'.

kr/he

[ENDS]

[The above testimony is provided by IRIN, a humanitarian news service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.]

IRIN welcomes editorial and photographic submissions for inclusion on this page, reserving the right to select and edit as appropriate.
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