Video

Video: Beat Making Lab x PBS [Episode 1]

The Beat Making Lab project from UNC Chapel Hill brings their beatmaking course to Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, part of a new series with PBS Digital Studios.


For a few months now, Okayafrica has been covering the progress of the Beat Making Lab project started by UNC Chapel Hill professors/beatmakers/emcees Apple Juice Kid and Pierce Freelon in the Democratic Republic of Congo - you can find the first track "Cho Cho Cho" that dropped last month here if you need a refresher.

This week, the team has announced an official partnership with PBS Digital Studios to bring a weekly webseries that follows the Beat Making Lab crew as they bring their curriculum to Goma, DRC; Portobelo, Panama; Dakar, Senegal; and Suva, Fiji. The labs conducted are developed out of the curriculum designed for a course taught by Apple Juice Kid and Dr. Mark Katz at UNC, bringing music education through sample-based electronic and hip hop production to youth around the world.

The first episode takes place in Goma and explains the full scope of the Beat Making Lab while also highlighting the experiences of the young creatives who are participating. As the crew wraps up each production workshop, the equipment is used to establish permanent labs for youth in each of the host cities. As we've mentioned before, the team behind the Lab is also working on developing an open-source beat making software, allowing for producers across the globe to share and work on beats in a free, fully-collaborative platform. Not only are the ideas behind the project super dope, it's also quite exciting to see a sustainable model for music education and collaboration for global youth to participate in, even after the UNC team finishes their workshops. And if the music played in this episode are any indication of what's to come, we can't wait to see what's next - as one YouTube commenter puts it —"This beat DISRUPTS!" — and we tend to agree.

Watch the first episode below, new episodes are set go up on the Beat Making Lab YouTube channel every Wednesday.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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