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.
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).
Beat Making Lab builds studios in cultural centers around the world and trains youth musicians in the art of beat making. This post is part of a This Week in Beat Making, a weekly series on GOOD—follow our adventures with new episodes here every Wednesday.
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