Why I Nominated Emmanuel Zunz for the GOOD 100
Illustration by Lauren Tamaki
I first wrote to Emmanuel Zunz half a dozen years ago; I had heard him on All Things Considered, talking about his work as a music producer in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Since I was doing similar work with children in the slums of Recife, Brazil, I wanted to find out how he had managed to develop such amazing technical quality in his recordings. We emailed back and forth a dozen times, then finally found ourselves both in Rio and met in a bar under the Arcas de Lapa, listening to the trolley rumble over our heads as it headed up into the bohemian chic neighborhood of Santa Teresa.
Zunz has a talent for finding music, for hearing the sounds that will make sense to a world audience. As he has moved on from direct production into distribution, he's been able to find exactly the bands and artists I want to listen to, and from his success with his label, ONErpm Records, he's found the music that many, many other people want to hear, too.
For the listener and the music buyer, that good taste may be the most important thing about Zunz's work. For those of us who work in the trenches of social change, his good ethics are even more important. There’s a long history of American and European producers and marketers using world music like the Spanish used Cerro Rico at Potosi, Bolivia: as a rich vein of cultural silver to be plundered for the benefit of multinational corporations. ONErpm has reversed that story: Now, most of the money that a listener spends goes directly to the people who make the music, not to the label.
The name ‘ONErpm’ means ‘ONE Revolution People’s Music,’” Zunz explains. “‘ONE’ represents unity but also stands for our goal to be the best and ‘revolution,’ as in rpm, like vinyl, revolutions per minute to represent our goal to revolutionize the digital distribution industry through facilitating, bringing the music to the people.”
It also means a revolution in the way that musicians think of themselves: returning to seeing themselves as autonomous artists, even agents of social change, not simply as cogs in the world entertainment industry. In Latin America, where we have a long tradition of poets and musicians who work for social justice—and who have come to despise the logic of labels and distributors—this revolution may be as important as any other.
Kurt Shaw, a member of the 2013 GOOD 100, is the founder and executive director of Shine a Light, a 300-member network of organizations serving street and working children in Latin America.
Gap has teamed up with GOOD to celebrate the GOOD 100, our annual round-up of individuals at the cutting-edge of creative impact. Gap + GOOD are challenging you to join in. We all have something to offer. #letsdomore
A New Olympics Just For Nomads Playing polo with a 100-pound goat carcass to save nomadic culture and build national pride in Kyrgyzstan.
New Detroit Program Trades Houses for Literary Excellence Write a House names Brooklyn poet Casey Rocheteau as first recipient of free home in Detroit
A Chance in Hell Yaks, America, and The Apocalypse Up against an $88 billion beef industry, it takes a leap of faith to raise yak in the United States.
Specialty Coffee Retailers Try to Prove They're Good to the Last Drop Searching for the perfect cup of sustainable and ethically produced joe. #NationalCoffeeDay
Metalhead Ballerinas Rock the U.K. Brutal Ballet slayed U.K. audiences last week with the debut of original choreography set to a metal cover of the Game of Thrones themesong.
You’re Now a Two-Minute Video Away from Getting into College
Goucher College will accept video applications in lieu of the traditional essays and test scores.
3 Epic Racial Profiling Blunders from History
Racial profiling not only harms innocent people of color, it can cause law enforcement to lose crucial time in pursuing the true criminals.
10 Overlooked Issues That People are Protesting This Week at the U.N.
The U.N. General Assembly is a magnet for protest from every race, color, and creed. Meet some of the people behind the picketing.
Why We Still Need the Nation State Overshadowed by international organizations, global commerce, and even individual cities, the nation state still has a vital role to play.
Flip-Flopping on Fats Health and sustainability concerns drive the two largest donut chains to change their policies on palm oil.
The Challenge of Branding a Life-Threatening Disease Can mitochondrial disease go mainstream? There are promising developments for mitochondrial disease in genetics and cellular therapies—now, if only it could get some buzz.
A Headdress Ban Disqualified Qatar’s Entire Women’s Basketball Team from International Competition
If the Asian Games really want to be a place where diversity shines, they should’ve opposed International Basketball’s ban on religious headwear.