The futuristic jukebox – all glass and chrome and lasers – doesn’t play the soundtrack of sock hops and drive-ins. Instead, the infectious (or, at least, infection-themed) tracks include “He’s Behind You, He’s Got Swine Flu,” “Let’s Talk About PrEP” and “State of Emergency,” written to raise awareness about Ebola.
Our favorite selection of the 10-song playlist? “Play Your Part,” by Nigerian superstar 2face Idibia. Developed in 2015 by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs and the Centre for Communication and Social Impact in Nigeria, the song was created to help Nigerians protect themselves from malaria. “Malaria free is a possibility,” he sings. “It will take a lot of effort from you and me.”
The jukebox is part of a new permanent exhibit at the Wellcome Collection, a free museum in London with a mission to “challenge how people think and feel about health.” “Being Human” explores issues of trust, identity and health in the changing world of the 21st century.
Clare Barlow, who curated the new exhibit, says she loves these musical gems because they entertain while sharing life-saving messages people might ignore in a less lively presentation. The jukebox was created, she says, because “we’re really interested in the value of songs as a communications tool.”
“There are a lot of public health warning campaigns, but there are also a lot of creative responses to infections and outbreaks and diseases,” Barlow says. “Public health messaging doesn’t have to be a poster that says, you will die of this.”
CCP has a long history of using song to relay public health messages. “Play Your Part” was created as the theme song for Nigeria’s national Malaria Elimination Program and appeared on an episode of Newman Street, a television drama created by CCP and its partners and funded by USAID/President’s Malaria Initiative and others. The song shares practical advice for being proactive to prevent malaria, which is spread by infected mosquitoes.
It’s also pretty catchy:
“We gotta let them know that the time has come
If we play our parts the war would be won
Let us come together, fight it as one.”
The new exhibit, which opened earlier this month to glowing reviews, includes four sections – genetics, minds and bodies, infection and environmental breakdown. One of the most talked about pieces is a sculpture designed to evoke the smell of human breast milk.
“The whole gallery is celebrating what it is that makes us human,” Barlow says.