When I was 12 years old, my mother—a rising jazz star—brought me on tour with her to Japan. It was my first glimpse of life on the road and I loved it. When I started my hip-hop and jazz quartet, The Beast, one of my goals was to perform internationally. Two months ago we finally achieved that goal with a week-long run in Panama, which you can check out in the video below.
Many of my musician-friends have asked for guidance on how to get their music international, so I've compiled some suggestions based on The Beast's success. There are four steps:
We spent the week with a local percussion ensemble called Barrio Fino; we each learned several of the other's songs, and we performed together at concerts in Portobelo and Panama City. The collaboration culminated in the production of a song called "Portobelo," produced by Apple Juice Kid and featuring vocalist Yomira John. The trip never would have happened if other stakeholders hadn't seen the value in collaborating with our band.
In Portobelo, I was teaching daily "Beat Making Lab" workshops at a free, community music-school called La Escuelita del Ritmo. In Panama City, The Beast did a master class with some talented young jazz musicians at Fundacion Danilo Perez. If all you can do is perform songs, you're missing out on other opportunities to engage communities, and create income streams for your band between gigs.
We had to be creative to find money for the trip so we applied for grants, crashed on couches, shared expenses with partners, and borrowed from our own pockets. It was a different route than my mother, but our experiences were equally gratifying.
4. Pay it Forward
I sent the song, "Protobelo" to a festival in North Carolina called Shakori Hills and they were so impressed with the story and collaboration, that they paid to have Yomira join The Beast at the festival that Spring. When you create opportunities for yourself, it opens doors for others: spread the love.
These four steps were useful for The Beast. What steps have you taken to accomplish your goals?
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.