New CD features Ugandan music used to combat HIV/AIDS; Singing for Life compiled by Vanderbilt medical ethnomusicologist Greg Barz

A new album of uplifting music from Uganda compiled by a Vanderbilt University ethnomusicologist is being released by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings as part of the effort to combat HIV/AIDS.

Singing for Life: Songs of Hope, Healing, and HIV/AIDS in Uganda is set for release on Feb. 20. It was compiled by Greg Barz, associate professor of ethnomusicology at Vanderbilt‘s Blair School of Music. The CD shares the Singing for Life title with a 2006 book he wrote about the role music and storytelling is playing in efforts to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

“Sonically, it‘s a luxurious experience,” Barz said. “When I listen to the CD, I can picture the people dancing. I‘m hearing communities. Some people will just put it in their CD players and groove to really great African music.

“But I think the majority of people will be suspicious, in a good way. They‘ll be compelled to put the story together with the music, which we‘ve made easy with the artwork and liner notes. When you get the broader perspective, the experience is elevated to a powerful understanding of the healing potential that can be unleashed when the arts and medicine combine efforts.”

Barz has been studying the role of the arts in combating HIV/AIDS in Africa since 1999. HIV infection rates have fallen from 30 percent to 5 percent in Uganda over the past decade, and Barz argues that efforts to convey good information by storytellers, dancers, musicians and other artists have played a prominent role in that success.

The emerging field of medical ethnomusicology, now recognized by the Society of Ethnomusicology, was born of the work of Barz and others. Medical ethnomusicology seeks to fight disease by combining the efforts of doctors and other heathcare workers with anthropologists, music specialists and public heath policy makers.

“I‘m comfortable now being labeled an activist as well as an ethnomusicologist,” Barz said. “I think this CD represents an activist stance. I‘m trying to make a point and move people and raise money.”

Proceeds from Singing for Life: Songs of Hope, Healing, and HIV/AIDS in Uganda will go to two agencies in Uganda, Meeting Point and the Integrated Development and AIDS Concern (IDAAC).

Meeting Point, run by Noelina Numukisa, works in the slums of Uganda‘s capital city of Kampala to assist orphans, provide home health care for HIV-positive women and their families and provide youth with vocational training. IDAAC supports a network of AIDS education and health care outreach to rural villages in Uganda.

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, the national museum of the United States.

Media contact: Jim Patterson, (615) 322-NEWS

Explore Story Topics