What is Beat Making Lab?
Beat Making Lab is an electronic music studio small enough to fit in a backpack. We build Labs in collaboration with communities all around the world; donating laptops, microphones and software. Our goal is to create positive social impact by giving youth the tools and training to make beats and songs.
Our innovative curriculum, founded at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, teaches open source music production and entrepreneurship.
Each lab consists of a two-week residency at a local community organization, where young people acquire skills to professionalize their creative practices and become part of a global DIY digital music community.
“Young people had songs, but didn’t know where to go for producing them. As most of them are students, they don’t have money for getting into professional studios abroad. With the Beat Making Lab, they can now produce their own songs and educate the community. These days, young people… are recording songs on war and insecurity.
It’s their way of fighting for peace, rather than going in bush with armed groups. While producing with the Beat Making Lab, they don’t fear politicians to interfere in their struggle. This program has really helped young people in Goma.” – Gauis Kowene, November 2012
Democratic Republic of Congo
In June 2012, we set up our first international lab in the Democratic Republic of Congo, partnering with Yole!Africa in Goma to train over 20 young people in DIY music production and entrepreneurship. We reached thousands more through public performances and international media coverage as part of Yole’s annual SKIFF Festival.
Each student trained in Goma is responsible for training others in their community, to ensure long-term impact and sustainability. DJ Couler, a Beat Making Lab student and MC from Goma explained the process, “when the instructors return to the United States, for us that will not be the end. It will be more like a continuation, or even a beginning for us because we will be able to teach others how to create their own beats.”
Why Beat Making?
Music is a tool to build dialogue, amplify voice and strengthen solidarity. As hip-hop and electronic music have developed into global culture, there is a growing need for resources, education and software to help youth express themselves in these genres.
Beat Making Lab does not require students to be able to read standard music notation, or play a traditional instrument. The participants learn the techniques of beat making through composition, sampling, and songwriting on the most powerful instrument of the 21st century: a laptop.
The results are computer-based electronic dance music and hip-hop songs. This approach and pedagogy radically broadens the population that can be served through modern music education.
Beat Making Lab started as an innovative course taught in the Music Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, founded by producer/DJ Stephen Levitin (aka Apple Juice Kid) and Dr. Mark Katz (author of Groove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip Hop DJ) in 2011. Professor/emcee Pierce Freelon joined Apple Juice Kid to co-teach the popular class in 2012, and was instrumental in transforming the curriculum for implementation in a community setting. Together, Freelon and Apple Juice Kid initiated a grassroots campaign and crowd-sourced funds to build a community Beat Making Lab in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Their efforts culminated in a collaboration with PBS Digital Studios, who will be airing episodes about Beat Making Lab each Wednesday.
Imagine a world where people in opposite corners of the globe exchange beats, lyrics and ideas with one another. Our dream is to design an open source beat making software and curriculum, to foster music creation internationally. So far Beat Making Labs are established, or being developed at community centers in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo; Portobelo, Panama; Dakar, Senegal; Suva, Fiji; and Chapel Hill, USA. We need your support to do more. Music can transform individuals and communities. We’re building tools to harness this potential and give everyone the opportunity to make beats.