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Live stream concert in Majuro highlights Covid-19 hope

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MAJURO — A live-streamed concert from the Marshall Islands Saturday featured top bands in the Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands star Rosie Delmah joining to bring a message of hope to Marshall Islanders devastated by coronavirus in the United States.

At Friday’s Nitijela (parliament) session, Foreign Minister Casten Nemra delivered a somber report on the impact of Covid-19 on Marshall Islanders in America. He said at least 83 islanders have died to date from Covid-19, with over half of these deaths — 47 — in Northwest Arkansas where over 10,000 Marshall Islanders live, many of them working in poultry processing factories. Hawaii health authorities reported last week that non-Hawaiian Pacific islanders, including Marshallese, had a Covid-19 infection rate 10-fold higher than the average for other races in the state.

 “We want to reach out to our communities in the U.S. through the ‘Kotak Dron’ concert, to send a message of hope,” said Daniel Kramer, who heads Six9Too Productions, a music production company that organized Saturday’s concert broadcast from Majuro. The message of the Marshallese phrase “kotak dron” is about “uplifting” people’s spirits and hopes.

Kramer said the concert was a way to bring people together in a time of huge health and financial stress for Marshallese communities everywhere. The Marshall Islands is one of 10 countries in the region that remains Covid-free because it has kept its borders closed to arrivals since March 8.

Rosie Delmah

Hundreds of islanders in the U.S., the Marshall Islands and elsewhere tuned into the live stream of the Kotak Dron concert on Facebook and YouTube. In addition to featuring internationally known singer Delmah and some of the best talent on the Marshall Islands music scene, the live stream incorporated interviews of musicians with short talks by church pastors, traditional leaders and doctors speaking to their friends and relatives in America about Covid-19 prevention.

Rev. Palukne Johnny, the president of the United Church of Christ in the Marshall Islands, appealed to islanders in the U.S. to use face masks and follow directives of state and local governments to prevent the spread of the virus.

Photographs of Marshallese living in the U.S. wearing facemasks were featured as part of the Covid-19 prevention promotion message delivered during the concert. “I wear a face mask for my bubu and jimma (grandmother and grandfather),” said some of the messages from younger generation Marshallese donning facemasks in the US.

A band in the Solomon Islands performed a song specially for the Kotak Dron concert that was interspersed with the Majuro bands during the live stream, demonstrating Six9Too Productions company’s ties with musicians around the Pacific.

The Marshall Islands Ministry of Health and Human Services is one of many local and international sponsors of the concert, which gave the ministry the opportunity to get health messages out to people watching the concert.

Performers had been practicing for weeks to get ready for Saturday’s music festival. “Everyone who sings with my band has been practicing two months ahead,” Kramer said. “My shows go a certain way. I don’t want performers up on stage saying ‘what song is next and what key?’”

The weeks of rehearsals paved the way for a non-stop show live streamed from Majuro.

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