British Ebola survivor William Pooley listens as he attends the "Defeating Ebola: Sierra Leone" conference at Lancaster House in London on Oct. 2, 2014.
Leon Neal—WPA Pool/Getty Images
By Megan Gibson
December 9, 2014

William Pooley, the British nurse who contracted Ebola after working in West Africa, isn’t thrilled with the Band Aid 30 charity song raising money to fight the infectious disease. In an interview with the Radio Times Magazine, Pooley, who has recovered and travelled back to Sierra Leone to work with patients again, said: “On the way into work I heard the first half of it. It’s definitely being talked about here among my colleagues.”

Yet the talk hasn’t all been pleasant. Pooley continued: “Stuff about ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’ – it’s just like, actually people live normal lives here and do normal things. It’s Africa, not another planet. That sort of cultural ignorance is a bit cringeworthy. There’s a lyric about ‘death in every tear.’ It’s just a bit much.”

The single — which is a reworking of the original 1984 Band Aid song “Do They Know It’s Christmas” — features One Direction, Sam Smith, Ellie Goulding, Bono and others, singing lines such as “No peace and joy this Christmas in West Africa” and “a kiss of love can kill you.” Funds from sales of the song, available on iTunes, will go toward the effort to stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa.

But there has been backlash to the song’s lyrics, with commentators and celebrities criticizing the song for being patronizing and reinforcing stereotypes about Africa. Lily Allen called the song “smug,” and even Emili Sande, who sang on the track, has indicated she wasn’t happy with the lyrics.

For his part, Geldof has said he’s fine with the criticism. “It’s a pop song, it’s not a doctoral thesis,” he told the BBC on Monday. “What it mainly does is it gets the conversation out into the cafes and the kitchens and the pubs, and once that happens you have great politics happening and we can steer that in a political direction.”


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