This Week in Beat Making: Crowdsourced Dancehall 'Riddims' This Week in Beat Making: Crowdsourced Dancehall 'Riddims'

This Week in Beat Making: Crowdsourced Dancehall 'Riddims'

by Pierce Freelon

May 31, 2013

In Panama a few months ago I met Martin, a 14-year-old with an adorable smile and a giant accordion. He was standing outside of a local pizza shop in Portobelo, Panama, practicing. He was damn good. I asked him permission to record his performance, and with a nod, my buddy Saleem Reshamwala whipped out his camera, while I captured audio on a zoom recorder.

Later that day, we came up with an idea. Let's issue a challenge to beat makers internationally, to see who can make the hottest beat, sampling Martin's accordion. This way, the world could get a taste of Portobelo through Martin's performance and participate in re-interpreting it through the medium of electronic music. Our colleague, producer Apple Juice Kid, put the icing on the cake by suggesting that we make the challenge genre specific. And then Accordion Trap was born.

The impromptu recording became the basis for an international beat battle, where more than 40 producers worldwide competed for prizes and respect. My world was rocked by the level of talent and enthusiasm that the challenge created. After Panama, we knew that we wanted the international exchange to continue.

A few weeks later, we were in Senegal and asked our students there about what instrument we should record for a similar challenge. Our student Toussa suggested the kora—a stringed West African gourd used by traditional storytellers and musicians known as griots. She brought a kora player to class and, along with her peers, recorded his performance; then used the recording to make "riddims" (Jamaican Patwa for "rhythms")—beats in the Jamaican dancehall genre.

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This Week in Beat Making: Crowdsourced Dancehall 'Riddims'