Beat Making Lab


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Beat Making Lab is a brilliantly simple and stylishly executed idea bringing electronic music education to communities around the world. Though the lab initially started as a music production course at the University, it has since been transformed into a global project with the two teachers taking their know-how and a travelling studio around the world.

The Lab itself is a crowdfunded “electronic music studio small enough to fit in a backpack” that offers young musicians the tools, skills and opportunity to make their own beats. For each lab the “teachers” (producers Apple Juice Kid and MC Pierce Freelon) spend two weeks in a local organisation teaching young people the skills to professionalise their music and become part of the 21st century global digital music community. Though the producers go back to the US, the equipment stays as an investment in the artists and the community.

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World Hip-Hop Women

Las Krudas Cubensi

This first appeared in The Guardian’s African Network at the end of January. Presented by US based media/social change platform Nomadic Wax, the World Hip-Hop Women Mixtape is a global journey taking in some of the most stellar and socially conscious female rappers from South Africa to Chile, from the US to Singapore. As well as highlighting Hip-Hop’s global appeal, the mixtape is also a testament to genre’s power as a mode of social expression.

 “You will hear nothing but strong, insightful verses. The sounds are native to locations on opposite ends of the globe, and yet the sonic journey will be familiar to anyone who has a heart for great music. Whether you understand the language or tonal origin of any song in the mix, the flow will guide the expansion of your mind and the movement of your body.”

Covering 18 countries, the mix features tracks by Soultana, a member of Morocco’s first all female hip-hop crew Tigresse Flow, Palestinian MC Shadia Mansour, the first lady of Arabic hip-hop and Cuban mestizo, feminist activist group Krudas Cubensi amongst others. A global mixtape that breaches borders, shows Hip-Hop’s as a global platform for expression and shines the spotlight on some of the world’s most interesting female MCs.

DJ iZem – EP2

DJ IZem - EP2 COver

Lisbon based French producer DJ iZem has been quietly bubbling away over the past couple of years as a producer on the rise. The few tracks and remixes that he has released have demonstrated a talented artist with a unique style blending tropical rhythms with funk influences, smooth synths with live instrumentation and deep basses with smooth vocals, epitomised by 2011’s brilliant Quiver / Debaixo D’Agua EP. He returns with his 2nd EP… EP2, offering another slice of quality, warm, soulful, topically infused electronica. What’s more, it is available for free download (!)

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Musical migrations: Cholos in Japan

Culture moves in mysterious ways. The Huffington Post this week ran a little feature on the presence of Mexican-American chicano or cholo culture, music, fashion and lifestlye in Japan. Its beginnings can apparently be traced to the emergence of lowrider culture (Lowrider magazine has over 70,000 readers in Japan!) and the lifestyle that comes with it. However, for the past few years the scene has grown to include homegrown chicano or cholo fashion, music and language.

One of the key names attributed to pushing Mexican-American music in Japan is Shin Miyata who as a youth spent time living in LA and became fascinated by chicano culture. Upon returning to Japan he set up his own record label Barrio Gold Records and began to release classic chicano albums from the Rampart Records back catalogue by the likes of Quetzal, El Chicano,  Little Willie G and more. This, combined with the strong lowrider scene in the country contributed to the emergence of a small but seemingly thriving Japanese chicano sub-culture.

In more recent times Japanese chicanos have sought inspiration from the cholo hip-hop scene, giving way to the emergence of chicano rap groups whose lyrics move between Spanglish and Japanese and who dress in stereotypical cholo style. As rapper Cuete Yeska said of the scene in Japan a while back:

Last night I was on myspace, there’s a guy named Ese Lil Night, he gave me a message saying that I cant wait for your CD to come out, all my vatos and all the hynas out here cant wait to see you in Japan, we got your back Cuete. Wow, when I read that, these guys were talking to me in my language. He was Chicanoed out! He had locs on, he had the clothing. Now, they look like eses more than I ever would have imagined, they just down with the music.

Another wonderfully strange cultural movement: from Mexican-American sub-culture to Japanese-Mexican-American sub-culture. To finish, not really chicano but a Japaenese version of Murder She Wrote riddim.

Sunday Songs

Here in Amsterdam the sun is shining and summer is finally here (at least for a weekend). To celebrate here is a little playlist of some sunny, Sunday songs:

Débruit – From the Horizon (Civil Music – 4th June)

I have only recently started exploring his productions but I am quickly becoming a big fan of French producer Débruit. Though his name seems to have been around for a while, On the Horizon, is his first full length album. The album draws on a resource of samples from a diverse range of West African music, cutting them up and melting them into hip-hop beats and gloopy synths. The end product of three years of collecting field recordings, dusting off old cassettes and searching for the right samples and incorporating them into his unique sound. The preview is sounding top-notch – like West Coast US dilla-hop meets Western Africa: assured beats combined with vocal lines, lo-fi rhythms and polyrhythmic melodies.

From the Horizon is a continuation of the Parisian’s history of mixing folkloric influences into his Hip-Hop led productions, as demonstrated on his 3D EPs Spatio Temporel and Sis Sürpriz. It is interesting to compare Débruit’s approach to “folklore” with that of Maga Bo on his fantastic latest album Quilombo do Futuro. Two very different approaches to the idea of fusing tradition with modernity and organic with electronic. From The Horizon is released through Civil Music on the 4th of June. And finally, well-worth checking out Débruit’s live set at the Boiler Room from a few weeks back:

Rhythm & Roots Mix – Volume XII

Spring is here and, as ever, the internet is awash with inspiring and foot waggling tunes from each corner of the globe. Our 12th (time flies!) Rhythm & Roots mix is a good ‘un and is chock full of tunes we are really into, all mixed together in different ways, like a big rhythmic trifle(!) In a good way, of course. Full tracklist with links to find all these musical gems follows the break.

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