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Bring It: A Challenge to Make a Beat Sampling for a Fijan Chant

Making a beat out of this sample is a challenge we're issuing worldwide.

We took a field trip to a Baha'i Faith Center in Suva, Fiji, to record local performers and sounds to make beats. We were invited by our beat-making student Paul, a guitar-playing community activist who, with his wife, ran a youth dance company at the center. On deck for the evening was a very striking style of local music and dance—Pacific Island body percussion—and it was really amazing.

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I remember meeting Ben on the second day of class. He missed the first day because he had to take a 12-hour boat from his home in Savusavu, to get to where the beat-making workshops were being held at the University of the South Pacific in Suva. Our host, Dave Lavaki (also known as rapper Mr. Grin), introduced Ben as a talented pianist, singer, and community activist with a background at the Berkeley College of Music.

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Hip-Hop University: How the Genre Is Taking Over Higher Learning

Right now, we are at in an interesting historical moment in hip-hop.

Right now, we are at in an interesting historical moment in hip-hop. Over the past 40 years, the culture has grown from its grassroots foundations at Bronx block parties, to becoming the most important youth culture on the planet. There have been a wide range of institutional co-signs, from rappers spitting poetry in the White House, to colleges and universities offering classes and degrees on hip-hop.

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This Week in Beat Making: Hip-Hop Made in a Senegalese Hospital

Here's a crazy experiment: visit a hospital and try to make a beat using only sounds that you find at the facility.


Here's a crazy experiment: visit a hospital and try to make a beat using only sounds that you find at the facility. What would you come up with? This was a question we posed to our student—a Senegalese beat maker named Ina—and her counterparts, thousands of miles away in Fiji.

We took Ina to a health care facility outside of Dakar with a recording device, and asked her to collect audio samples. She grabbed all types of noises: babies crying, the sound of velcro being ripped off of a blood pressure gauge, the clanging of metal stretchers, and even goats roaming the hospital grounds. She also recorded interviews, asking children, patients, health workers and community leaders what they thought about family planning. These sounds became the foundation of an instrumental beat, which we hope will help raise awareness about family planning in West Africa.

The unusual composition came about after brainstorming with a global health organization called Intrahealth. Their focus in West Africa is to educate communities about healthy intervals between births, contraception options, and cultural misconceptions about family planning. Our focus in West Africa is merging the worlds of art and activism through music and beat making.

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This Week in Beat Making: Crowdsourced Dancehall 'Riddims'

This week in beat making: a challenge to create dancehall riddims.


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.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLwSctQVh2k

Today, we're issuing the challenge to the rest of the world: make a dancehall riddim sampling our recording of the kora. If you know of a beat maker to send this to, or want to give beat making a shot yourself, you can download the recording via our Soundcloud page to get started. The best beats earn Soundcloud Pro accounts, and a spot on our upcoming EP "GOTAL" which premieres on Mad Decent this July.

What excites me most about this particular challenge is the fact that many of the rhythms found in Jamaica and the Caribbean are of African origin. Using an ancient Senegalese instrument to create popular modern music of the African diaspora... neex na (Wolof meaning: is good/tastes good).

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This Week in Beat Making: Sounds from a Notorious Panamanian Prison

Beat Making Lab builds studios in cultural centers around the world and train youth musicians in the art of beat making.

I was headed to Panama to build a Beat Making Lab—a mobile electronic studio—at a community center in Portobelo when my business partner Apple Juice Kid got an interesting call. Apparently there was a studio in the rain forests of Gamboa, where an incarcerated DJ named Professor Angel Sound was making beats in a prison—the same prison that houses Manuel Noriega (yes, the real Noriega).

We didn't know what to expect, but we did everything we could to get permission to go in there and collaborate with him. When we finally got the green light from the warden, we took a taxi out to Gamboa and ended up at a studio called RAM, or Rehabilitacion a Traves de la Musica (rehabilitation through music) where Apple Juice Kid and Professor Angel Sound created a beat with found sounds recorded around the studio/prison cell.

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