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The world takes notice with a love song encouraging HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness

Mr. Kohei Yamada

"It's not about responsibility, or doing something for the sake of someone else. Enjoying yourself is what's important," said Mr. Yamada, condensing his many life experiences and thoughts into a single sentence. In the year 2000, while he was still in college, Mr. Yamada was studying abroad in Taiwan when he passed an audition allowing him to perform the Chinese version of the Doraemon theme song. This became his CD debut experience. "That experience lives on within my activities in Africa. There wasn't a single thing that I saw as a waste of time."

"More than anything, I wanted to see the world." With that single thought in mind, Mr. Yamada took up his post at Malawi, Africa as a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer in 2003. While there, his entire world was transformed. "Every day, I was surrounded by people afflicted with AIDS. Even my friends and acquaintances were suffering... It was only natural to feel the need to do something."

That's when he decided to make a song about AIDS prevention. Originally he wrote a poem and handed it to Mlaka Maliro, a famous Malawian musician, and directly asked him "Could you set this to music and sing the vocals?" The response he received back was "You should be the one to sing the vocals." In that instant, the song "Ndimakukonda" (I love you), performed by jinbei (traditional Japanese summer wear)-clad artist Mr. Kohei Yamada, was born. "Since I was serious about it, I aimed for number one on the charts. I felt that if I was paired with a famous musician I could do it... no, I felt as though I had to do it," said Mr. Yamada, looking back to the eve of the song's release. One week after the CD went on sale it was embraced by newspapers, television, and radio. "From the very start, there was an amazing response. I feel it was because I had such a strong conviction."

"Behavior Change" is essential for AIDS prevention and awareness. In other words, a large number of people's actions have to be changed. "I believe that music resonates within the hearts of people, and thus can also change their actions." The love song isn't about concrete preventative measures, but rather the notions and sentiment behind them. "What I want from people who awaken to the severity of AIDS is for them to communicate that to other people who are important to them." Mr. Yamada also went on to say that he'd like Japanese youth to know more about AIDS. "In a way, out of anywhere else in the world, Africa holds the most experience with respect to the implementation of measures dealing with HIV and AIDS. That's why Japan should learn something from its example."

Mr. Yamada is currently working in the business of handling rare metals and attending the Okuma School of Public Management at Waseda University. Even during the days when he works incredibly hard, he doesn't forget his dreams or beliefs. "Through business, I would like to eventually build a bridge connecting Japan to Africa. The relationship I am suggesting is an exchange of African resources and Japanese environmentally-conscious technology. What's important for international cooperation isn't the patronizing argument 'You look to be in need, so we'll offer you support' or 'You're underdeveloped, so we'll offer you support,' but rather cooperation on an even level to build a win-win relationship." In front of Mr. Yamada's gaze lies the opening of a new era between Japan and Africa.

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)

Mr. Kohei Yamada

Born in Aichi Prefecture in 1979. Graduated from Aichi University's School of Modern Chinese Studies and is currently a first year graduate student of The Okuma School of Public Management. From 2003 to 2005 he was stationed at Malawi, Africa as a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer. His inspiration for the song "Ndimakukonda" (love) was a friend of his who had contracted AIDS. It ranked in at number one on the Malawi music charts and also ranked number one on the Yahoo! Total music ranking. During a presentation at the 4th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in 2008, he sang in front of then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and American leaders. He's also been selected as one of Newsweek Magazine Japan's "100 Japanese Respected by the World." His hobbies include surfing and cycling.