Skip to main content

Ivorian singer Jahelle Bonee lends support in the fight against COVID-19

Côte d'Ivoire
Jahelle Interview

“Solidarity is an eternal remedy,” says Jahelle Bonee, a singer-songwriter from Côte d’Ivoire, who is encouraging artists in West Africa to come together and take action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through her songs.

Bonee uses words and music to share preventive messages, which are easier to remember and spread quickly across regions. Her urban yet traditional music genre mixes Hip hop, Soul and Jazz music.

Inspired by Bonee’s song about COVID-19, Miss Cissé, a former migrant and now a volunteer for the Migrants as Messengers project implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) interviewed the singer about her motivations to lend her support during the pandemic.

Interview Jahelle

Credit: Amory Lumumba/IOM

Miss Cissé : You have sung a song against COVID-19 that I enjoy very much. What inspired you to write this song?

Jahelle : Since the beginning of the crisis, I have been monitoring the situation and I told myself that I needed to act. I wanted to raise awareness through this song and make people understand that every single action we take has an impact on the community.

Miss Cissé: You start the song by saying “we are under the impression that our actions have no “impact” what do you mean by that?

Jahelle: It comes from my daily struggle to explain to people how the sum of our individual actions could actually make the difference. Every action we take in our daily life has an impact on the lives of others. The taxi driver, the sales representative, the hairdresser… we are all connected to each other.

Miss Cissé: What has the public reaction been to the song?

Jahelle: I have received a lot of feedback from people who were happy that I voiced my support in the fight against the pandemic.

Miss Cissé: Have you taken part in other awareness-raising campaigns against COVID-19?

Jahelle: I have been using social media to sensitize people on preventive measures to adopt to stop the spread of the virus.

Miss Cissé: What is the role of artists in the fight against the pandemic?

Jahelle: Artists have a moral duty to get involved in this fight against COVID-19 and share our message with the people. We are modern-day ‘griots’ (Leaders and guardians of history and culture in West Africa and who are often seen as advisors. They remain today as storytellers, artists, poets and musicians). We have the duty to

Miss Cissé: Many artists are involved in this cause. What are you hoping to add?

Jahelle: We are a team, we are all linked and every action we take will have a snowball effect. I did not want to stay on the sidelines, because I think that as artists, we are megaphones. Thus, it was important for me to voice my support for all of those who have already taken action to convey this message. I don’t want artists to believe that societal problems are too heavy or complex to be addressed.

Miss Cissé: How has the pandemic impacted your life as an artist?

Jahelle: As an artist, it was very difficult for me at first, because music is my job, it is in my DNA. So, having to stop all my activities overnight was not easy for me at first. Sharing, live or via social media, is the most important aspect of my passion.

Miss Cissé: How did you personally manage the lockdown?

Jahelle: At first, I told myself that we have to stay united and that the crisis would soon be over. But after some time, I became far less positive, and I started to question my musical career. And lately, I realized that I can use the lockdown to be creative and launch new projects such as “Codi-jazz” with other artists.

Miss Cissé: Did the lockdown have an impact on your creativity and collaborations with other artists?

Jahelle: On my creativity, no, because I am the kind of person who is always creating. However, regarding collaborations, we had to put many projects on stand-by. But it has also given me the chance to work on different collaborations with artists outside of Côte d’Ivoire. For instance, I am currently working with an Ivorian artist who lives in France and another local artist, who shall remain nameless for now.

Miss Cissé: Do you have any tips that helped you during the lockdown?

Jahelle: I told myself that I had to stay positive and united with all those who are fighting the virus every day. I would like to share my support to all those who have contracted the virus, but also to the nurses, the doctors and all the health staff who have worked hard and continue to do so during this pandemic.

Miss Cissé: Côte d’Ivoire is full of talented artists who are involved in social issues, are they any that you are particularly fond of?

Jahelle: I admire these artists who lead many projects in their communities without much means. I am thinking of Paul-Marie Assandre, who is an artist I admire and who is very involved in women’s rights, as well as of A’salfo from Magic System, I sang one of their song in an album.