Music has many virtues. It improves our mental wellbeing, but also our cerebral plasticity and our cognitive capacities.
And it now seems that it can help raise awareness about threats to biodiversity, with albums such as A Guide To The Birdsong Of Western Africa, inspired by the songs of endangered birds in West Africa.
For centuries, nature has been a source of curiosity for musicians. Many of them, like Olivier Messiaen and Dominik Eulberg, pay tribute to nature by incorporating some of its sounds in their compositions. Shika Shika does the same as part of its "Birdsong" project.
Founded in 2014 by Robert Perkins and Augustin Rivaldo, the record label partners with renowned musicians and producers to alert music lovers to the disappearance of many bird species due to deforestation, global warming or poaching.
"We wanted to focus on birds not only because of their ancient link to humans as a fellow musical species but also because birds are known to be very valuable indicators of the health of the natural world," the record label explains.
Shika Shika has already released two albums for which artists like Damon Albarn and Jeff Tweedy composed songs inspired by the songs of endangered birds around the world. The first was dedicated to South America (2015), and the second to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean (2020). The label has now turned to West Africa for its latest volume, A Guide To The Birdsong Of Western Africa.
The first step was to compile a list of endangered birds in the region with the help of Birdlife Africa, the African Bird Club and the AP Leventis Ornithological Research Institute. Among them are the Black Crowned Crane, the Timneh Parrot and the São Tomé Grosbeak, with an estimated population of between 50 and 250 individuals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
"Our selection of birds does not include only the most endangered or the most beautiful songs, instead, these species represent the wider story of species and habitat loss in the region and the need for action," Shika Shika states.
Birdsong more popular than ABBA
Once the bird songs were selected, the second step was to find African musicians willing to take part (voluntarily) in making the album. Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré, Sierra Leone's Allstar Refugees, Ivorian musician Ruth Tafébé and Afro-house producer Buruntuma all agreed to compose a song for the album.
Crowdfunding totaling more than €20,000 (RM92,000) was then used to cover the production costs of A Guide To The Birdsong Of Western Africa. The profits from the album will go to three biodiversity conservation projects on the African continent.
This is not the first time that a musical project has been created to fight for the preservation of endangered birds. Last December, the BirdLife association released an album called Songs Of Disappearance to help preserve Australian fauna.
"This album is a very special record with some rare recordings of birds that may not survive if we don't come together to protect them," Paul Sullivan, CEO of BirdLife Australia, told The Music Network at the time.
To everyone's surprise, the record was so popular that it stayed in Australia's top 50 albums for three weeks. It even managed to beat Taylor Swift, ABBA and Olivia Rodrigo in the Oceanian country's chart during the week of December 20. Proof that conservation can sell records! - AFP