Activism through … song?


“Let us use the universal language of music, to sing out our message around the world.” – Nelson Mandela.

I stumbled across a headline: “Grad Student Makes Music Using DNA in AIDS Virus.” I clicked on it, excited by the promise of both “music” and “AIDS” in the same context. What I found was not at all what I had expected, but equally as intriguing.

Alexandra Pajak, a grad student at the University of Georgia, recently released an album called “Sounds of HIV”. No, the album isn’t composed of cultural music or ballads with uplifting lyrics that represent the stories of people or places affected by HIV/AIDS. Instead, Pajak assigned pitches to each individual strand of DNA that make up the AIDS virus (A for Adenine, C for Cytosine, G for Guanine and D for Thymine). What’s more is that the notes are true to the natural tendencies of the virus, like each amino acids’ varying attraction to water. The result? The complete DNA of the AIDS virus transcribed into 52 minutes of music. Pajak says she hopes that “Sounds of HIV” will help to raise HIV awareness.

While this is definitely an innovative approach and unlike anything we’ve seen before, I wonder how effective it will be. After all, I did find the article on AOL’s  Weird News” page. How many of us will discount it as just that, and move on with our day?

Mandela does have a point though — one that I strongly believe in. Music is an extremely powerful mode of communication. It allows us to relate to one another, to feel a deep connection to our neighbors and strangers alike. We realize that we are not alone, that our struggles are not unique to one individual. Music is able to transcend distance, cultural barriers and time. We’ve all seen the artists who sell songs on iTunes for charity. Many cultures, including South Africa, have a tradition of activism through song to promote unity and reach large audiences.

Music appeals to most everyone in some way, shape or form. Because of this, it is a perfect means for transmitting a global message:

The AIDS pandemic is real, it is here and it affects everyone; we need to take action.

See what musicians wear The Bracelet to support Until There’s A Cure. They make their voice heard. How can you make yours?


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