Ebola: The musical

A Harvard scientist has taken to song to provide an uplifting message during the Ebola outbreak.

Pardis Sabeti, a computational geneticist at Harvard and the Broad Institute, has mapped mutations of the Ebola virus.

In July, WBUR reports, she and a half-dozen other colleagues were sitting in an office with an assessment of how bleak the outbreak was and is. Many of their friends had already contracted the illness.

Sabeti’s Harvard lab has been partnering with the Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone since 2009. And, as it happens, Sabeti has been in a rock band called Thousand Days since 2000. Over the past few visits with her African peers, the Harvard scientist would get everyone together for a weekly singing group, and on that depressing summer day, they all started humming and singing along with one of Sabeti’s old melodies. Then, she said, words honoring her fallen peers in West Africa — including Dr. Sheik Humarr Kahn, who led Sierra Leone’s Ebola response until he succumbed to the virus himself — poured out of her, making a fully formed song.

“There’s a point where it says, ‘It’s a lifetime that we write, we laugh, we cry, we pray, we are love. We dream, we scream, we strive, the hunger will never die. And I’m in this fight with you always,” Sabeti intoned, adding, “And that’s how I started speaking to my friend Dr. Kahn during all of this.”

Another lyric, and perhaps the song’s larger intention, hits on Ebola’s ability to equalize and threaten us all.

“To the virus, we’re all the same,” Sabeti mused, “and we’re all in the same boat. And a virus infecting your neighbor is one that can affect you one day. So it’s a place where actually, even though we have to be cautious in the way we interact with each other, it’s where we actually really need to connect.”