If a love song about condoms seemed, to Left Bank tastes, to flirt with ridicule, other areas of the world - most notably Africa, where the musicians, especially in central and eastern areas, are in the front line of one of the worst epidemics of the disease - had no such reserve. By 1994, African Aids awareness lyrics, often rapped, have become commonplace: Senegalese rappers in Wolof; Ugandan rappers paying homage to the Kampalan star Philly Lutaaya who died of the disease in 1988. In 1987, the great Zairean Franco's ``Attention Na Sida'' (Beware of Aids), still the most striking of the African Aids records, stopped short of condom instruction - but not much else. ``Attention'' is a 20-minute Churchillian rallying call, and no artist was better qualified to deliver it. Franco's rich, brown voice was known across the continent, which he addressed in a stream of Lingala and French over a mesmeric snare drum and a sombre, hopping bass. A number of factors deepen the texture of ``Attention'': the fact that the opening guitar figure ironically echoes Franco's scandalous 1970 song ``Jacky'' (with its references to oral and anal sex); the fact that Franco died, officially of kidney failure, two years later.
``Attention'' was not the first African Aids song: the previous year, the Gabonese singer Hilarion N'Guema had released his ``Sida'', notable for its melodiousness and ominously resigned lyrics. Between catchy female choruses, a ``French doctor friend'' dispenses to the singer dubious advice and information: ``If you drink too much, you'll get liver trouble / If you eat too much, it'll be the stomach / Planes, cars, death is always there . . . / You'll die anyway . . .'' And with a perplexed ``Ay ay ay!'' the singer heads into another chorus, and by implication another night-club, no wiser or safer.
A few years - and many thousands of deaths - later, practical advice was much more evident. The Nigerian / Ivorean reggae artist Waby Spider's 1990 ``Sida'', has perhaps the most unappetising introductory verse ever written: ``Gonorrhoea you can cure, Blennorrhea you can cure, syphilis chaude pisse''. Failure to use protection is ``pas du tout cool''. Equally straightforward is the Tanzania-based singer and bandleader Remmy Ongala, with good reason: six members of his Orchestre Matimila have died of Aids-related illnesses.
It is the safe sex message that, understandably, emerges most strongly from world Aids songs. So in Colombia we have La Sonora Dinamita, over a loping cumbia beat, singing ``La Cumbia del Sida'', a record used for health campaigns in Mexico and the Latin USA.
In Cuba, La Original de Manzanilla's ``El Cinturon del Taxi'' stresses the importance of the seatbelt when getting into a strange taxi. And in Jamaica Buju Banton, in an engaging but hopeless attempt at political correctness after the heavily criticised, homophobic ``Boom Bye Bye'', contributes the couplet ``Ragamuffin don't be silly / Put a rubber on your willy''. But it has been left to another French lyricist to point out that not everyone is pushing condom use: Francois Hadji-Lazaro, the shaven-headed, anarcho-traditionalist leader of the group Pigalle. His message in ``Crime contre l'humanite'' is tragically blunt. It translates: ``The Pope has said `Plastic you shall not wear' . . . while they die in Nigeria . . . and even right here . . . it rolls onward, Sida''.Reuse content