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Audio: Autoimmune disease rock song

by Ouch Team

16th March 2010

Velvety voiced Jesper Eugen-Olsen (think the Barry White of academia) from Copenhagen University and service user Benta (President, Danish Colitis-Crohn Association) explain how they collaborated on a pop video to raise awareness of auto immune diseases. The song 'What Is Going On?' is performed by Danish band Dansk Flode (that's Danish Cream) with vocals (in English) from the good doctor and service users.
Jesper Eugen Olsen and colleagues jamming in the lab
The doctor worked with user-led groups in Denmark to produce the incredibly catchy pop video, 'What Is Going On?'. The aim being to improve understanding of auto immune diseases. He joins us to talk about the inspiration behind the music video. Plus, service user Benta explains why the song provides an accessible way of explaining complex conditions to everyone.

This is possibly the only song that you'll ever hear about autoimmune diseases, so may we suggest you make the most of it...

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[+] Click to reveal a transcript of the interview

MAT: Our guests are Professor Jesper Eugen-Olsen on the line from Copenhagen. And on the phone is Benta from Crohn’s Disease Association in Denmark, another one of the voices. But she’s rather complicatedly in a quiet part of Prague Airport. Hi guys.
JULIE: So hi.
JESPER: Hi.
BENTA: Hi.
JULIE: How are you doing? How was your flight?
BENTA: I must say it was very fine.
JULIE: Excellent.
BENTA: Very fast.
MAT: Okay, so this... basically you guys are part of a song, it’s probably the only in the world song about auto-immune disease, which not a lot of people know about. And it’s called LEARN, the organisation. Perhaps one of you could start off by just quickly telling us what is auto-immune disease and what is LEARN?
BENTA: I think Jesper had better explain what auto-immune diseases are.
JESPER: Alright, I’ll give it a try. Well basically the reason why we made a song about auto-immune disease and want to speak a little bit about it is that it’s actually… it’s not something that everybody knows what it is. I mean people know what cancer is or diabetes or cardio-vascular disease, but this disease, when you say you’re suffering from an auto-immune disease, people don’t know what it is. Sometimes they stigmatise these people who have it, if they have psoriasis or something they don’t want to say hello to them, don’t want to touch them, afraid it’s contagious and so on. And it’s not. So when you have a problem with the stigmatisation what you really want to do is create knowledge, so we wanted to do this to create knowledge about auto-immune disease. And that’s actually when we have a very good functioning immune system that protects us from viruses, from bacteria and parasites and so on. And sometimes it turns on yourself and that’s… and the immune system starts attacking the individual itself, and that’s an auto-immune disease.
JULIE: So who’s behind the project?
JESPER: Well it’s quite a unique collaboration between the patient associations for a number of different auto-immune diseases in Denmark. And the health company, Abbot, and then the University… Copenhagen University Hospital, called Hvidovre Hospital.
MAT: What hospital?
JESPER: Hvidovre, quite difficult to say in English actually.
MAT: I was going to say… are you alright mate?
JULIE: Sounds like you’re being sick [laughing].
JESPER: I think I’ve got something in my throat, it’s called my hospital that I work in! So...
MAT: So... what’s interesting is that it’s come from the doctors’ and the patients’ groups and it...
JESPER: Exactly.
MAT: So BENTA:, how did the patients’ group get involved?
BENTA: We got involved because we had a cooperation with Abbot and we was always talking about that our greatest problem is getting the knowledge about these diseases out to the public in general. And then all the talk… it came to it that we wanted to make it very easy, or easier, to understand what was going on in a body that was… that had developed what you call an immune disease.
MAT: Yeah, it’s a great idea I think.
BENTA: Because these are diseases that are very, very difficult to explain what is going on. We still don’t know why immune diseases develop, but now at least it has been possible to explain it in an understandable way to the patients and to the public in general what is going.
JULIE: It’s a very funky song, so tell me more about who wrote the music and the lyrics.
JESPER: Well...
MAT: And who was in the video.
JESPER: Yeah, the music was written by a Danish sound designer and musician called Bjorn Vido, or we call him sometimes Piano.
MAT: Good, I would too if I had a name like that, but anyway go on.
JESPER: I know. It’s another (inaudible) but Bjorn Vido, that’s what his name is. Then Bjorn and I, we wrote the lyrics together. But it’s mostly actually based on the stories that the patients told us, so it’s kind of understanding the patients and translating that into music.
JULIE: So tell me, how does it feel to be a rock star?
JESPER: Oh, it feels fantastic! I mean, who don’t want to be a rock star all the time? I mean that’s the best, isn’t it?
JULIE: Abs… have you got to the number one slot yet?
JESPER: No, but we’ve got a number one in (inaudible) actually.
BENTA: We’re hoping.
JULIE: [Laughing] brilliant, that’s fantastic.
JESPER: Well our band has actually a funny name also; it’s called Dansk Fl?de.
JULIE: Right.
BENTA: Danish Cream.
MAT: Danish Cream.
JULIE: Lovely. So...
MAT: Ding dong!
JULIE: Is it really helping to gain publicity to the wider general public for you guys?
JESPER: Well I think…
BENTA: Yes it is. Jesper.
JESPER: Well maybe sometimes there’s a lot of young people also genetically disposed to having auto-immune diseases and I think it’s another way to contact a lot of different people, also young people, as to the use of music and why not start to try something new in a way.
MAT: Mm. Thank you so much guys. We’re going to have to like wind up obviously now with the song.
JULIE: We are.
MAT: Thanks very much. Congratulations on, you know... Oh sorry, quick chance to plug.
JULIE: Oh yes, tell us about your url.
MAT: Have you got a website? Tell us about that.
JESPER: Yeah, we do have a website. It’s called learnexpo.info, where you can see the music and you can also learn about our translation of what auto-immune diseases are and… so hope you play (inaudible) to learnexpo.info.
MAT: And we’ve got a link to that on the Ouch! website of course listeners, as ever.
JULIE: Good luck guys, we hope you do really well and get to the number one spot.
JESPER: Thank you very much.
BENTA: Yes, thank you very much.
MAT: Yeah.
JESPER: [Speaks in Danish]
BENTA: [Speaks in Danish]
MAT: Alright, wow, it’s getting so international people aren’t even speaking English any more.
BENTA: [Laughs]
MAT: So, it’s time to play the track. We’ll say goodbye until next month and JESPER:, maybe you’d be kind enough to introduce, in Jesper’s beautiful radio voice.
JESPER: Well everybody, here we go, what’s it all about and learn a little bit about the disease, and with Dansk Flode I’m proud to present 'What Is Going On?'.
[Playing music]
JULIE: Hi, Jesper, how’re doing?
JESPER: I’m doing fine thank you.
MAT: Oh, my God.
JULIE: What a wonderful voice you have.
MAT: Doctor, you have a radio voice if ever I heard one.
JULIE: Speak to me baby.
JESPER: Oh yeah.
MAT: Oh, oh, oh, this guy...

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