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Alicia Keys talks to BBC World Service magazine about Africa, AIDS, music and God

R&B superstar Alicia Keys says that fighting AIDS is the most important issue of her generation.


Talking to the BBC World Service's BBC Focus On Africa magazine about her HIV/AIDS charity, the US singer admits that she saw Africa as her motherland and that she had "never felt closer to God" in her life than during the month spent in Africa while filming her documentary.


And she says that stars such as Fela Kuti and Youssou N'Dour are "a huge influence" on her.


In the interview, published in the July-September issue of the magazine, Alicia talks about her work to provide medicines for AIDS sufferers in Africa.


The conversation focuses on the pressing issue of HIV on the continent and Alicia's attempts to help, including her intention to hold a "Black Ball" in the UK this year to raise funds, her work with the activist Leigh Blake, and the documentary Alicia In Africa.


In the interview, Alicia asserts a desire to help, speaking of a great affinity for Africa and a hope that others come to share in her love for the continent as well as her decision to help it.


A selection of quotes from the interview follows:


"I believe that fighting AIDS is the most important issue of our generation. [.] AIDS is a mirror; it looks at us and asks who we are and what we care about."


"[Africa] smells like the pure beginning of the earth, it is magical, and is like God's painting. And the kindness of people living there is incredibly inspiring – I believe that they help others, who visit Africa, to live compassionately."


"[African] beats are incredible and the passion is undeniable. Someone like Fela Kuti, for instance, is a huge influence, as are amazing artists like Youssou N'Dour who is a fantastic songwriter. I also love Oumou Sangare and the amazing sound she makes."


When asked if she sees Africa as her motherland, she says: "Yes I do. I really do. We are all part of the same human family. I truly believe that. Everything began there.


"The scale of this human tragedy is outrageous and it's being perpetrated on some of the most amazing people you could ever know.


"Just like I care about what happens to my mother or anyone in my family, we should all care about each other."


"I have never felt closer to God in my life [than during the month spent in Africa while filming the documentary, Alicia In Africa]. And I found that the people have so much faith, making me feel extremely blessed to be able to do this work.


"The answer to keeping children alive is keeping mother alive. Mothers are everything to the well-being of their children, both mind and body.


"Other motivating forces are the opportunity for me to set up entire wings for paediatric care or transform buildings into clinics in areas that formerly had no access to one."


Asked if her visit to Africa could be viewed as a PR exercise to sell more records in Africa, she says: "I have no idea if I even sell records in Africa, but I assure you that the people who we are reaching don't have the money to buy records. We mostly have to provide healthcare, and even nutrition to people, so it's unlikely that this argument sticks."


"Travel opens you up and makes you realise that, although the US is the land of milk and honey, we are not happier than the Africans I have met, despite all their suffering. Material things don't mean anything – family, love and compassion are everything."


BBC Focus On Africa magazine is published quarterly by BBC World Service and distributed in almost every English-speaking country in Africa.


Now in its 19th successful year, the magazine uses a network of correspondents across the continent, reflecting the unbiased and in-depth reporting of the BBC.  


Each edition of BBC Focus On Africa is full of feature articles, news reports and photographs covering the continent's latest political, economic, social, cultural and sporting developments and providing a unique picture of Africa today.  


BBC World Service Publicity




Category: World Service
Date: 13.06.2008
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