Arts, Culture & Media

Can you mix a masinko and a soccer game chant into a beat?

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Credit: IntraHealth International
Stephen Levitin, also known as Apple Juice Kid, goes on a site visit with IntraHealth.

The Beat Making Lab has traveled to five countries with backpacks full of music equipment.

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(This is a blog post by Pierce Freelon about the Beat Making Lab project. Read to the bottom to find more about our partnership with Beat Making Lab.)

In each lab, we have collaborated with youth on genre-bending beats and songs. While we were in Panama we met a young accordion player named Martin, who inspired an amazing idea — to capture a unique local sample (instrument or sound) and challenge producers around the world to make a beat out of it. The cultural exchange was so enriching, we wanted to spread the love and invite other beat makers to join the global dialogue.

The results have been amazing. 

Our first challenge was called "Accordion Trap." We recorded Martin playing his accordion, and challenged producers around the world to use the sample in a beat of the electronic trap genre. We were so amazed at the volume of submissions, and the quality of the production, that we decided to issue a new challenge, from Senegal.

We got our students to participate in making dancehall riddims, sampling a traditional Senegalese kora. In Fiji, our students made moombahton beats out of local Fijian chants. With each challenge, we received more submissions and more support from the music industry, including celebrity judges and Soundcloud offering prizes to the winning beat makers. 

Our Ethiopia challenge is more ambitious than its predecessors. Instead of one sample, beat makers are required to infuse both a traditional masinko and an Ethiopian soccer game chant into a beat. We'll launch the Ethiopia Beat Making Lab challenge this week. Listen to previous winners and learn more, including how you can participate at: www.beatmakinglab.com/challenge

Editor's Note: Over the next few weeks, we'll be checking in with the team at Beat Making Lab to find out how the project in Ethiopia is progressing. In mid-November, Levitin and Freelon will head back to Ethiopia to make a presentation about the project at the International Conference on Family Planning. It's the first time the pair has ever returned to a city where they set up a lab — and we'll be able to join them. Check back each of the next few Wednesdays for updates on the Beat Making Lab.

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    Credit: IntraHealth International
    The community in Addis Ababa is introduced to the Beat Making Lab studio.
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    Credit: IntraHealth International
    A recording session gets under way at the Beat Making Lab studio in Addis Ababa.
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    Credit: IntraHealth International
    Stephen Levitin, also known as Apple Juice Kid, stands next to a portable microphone setup at the Beat Making Lab studio in Addis Ababa.
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    Credit: IntraHealth International
    Stephen Levitin, also known Apple Juice Kid, and Pierce Freelon stand together in Ethiopia.
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    Credit: IntraHealth International
    Ifa Mesfin was a student and translator for the Ethiopia Beat Making Lab.
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    Credit: IntraHealth International
    Students line up outside of the Beat Making Lab studio in Addis Ababa.
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    Credit: IntraHealth International
    One of the Beat Making Lab students, Rodas Tameru, stands outside of the studio in Addis Ababa.
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    Credit: IntraHealth International
    Ifa Mesfin, student and translator, stands outside the Beat Making Lab studio in Addis Ababa.

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