A return to Ethiopia rekindles the spirit of the Beat Making Lab

The World

Four months ago, we traveled from Durham, N.C., to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with a backpack full of electronic music equipment.

(This is a blog post by Pierce Freelon about the Beat Making Lab project. This is the final installment of our partnership with Beat Making Lab.)

We spent two weeks with a group of amazing youth and created some dope music as part of the latest installment of the Beat Making Lab.

This week, we returned to Addis with IntraHealth, a global health organization that sponsored our lab in Ethiopia, to present our summer collaboration and reunite with our students at the International Conference on Family Planning. We re-connected with Gelila, a charismatic young singer and aspiring beat maker.

She wrote the lyrics to our global health-inspired anthem "Des Yelal," which means "feeds good" in Amharic — the language of Ethiopia.

On our first day back together, we performed for the opening night of the conference at the African Union with Big Beat Dance — a DJ ensemble featuring Apple Juice Kid on the boards and five live, traditional Ethiopian drummers. While Apple Juice composed mash-ups, blending "family planning" quotes from Melinda Gates with popular Ethiopian songs, I layered live samples on top of the music and engaged the crowd through call and response.

Gelila joined us on stage for an impromptu rendition of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds," rekindling the collaborative energy.

Several members of our beat making community were in attendance, including Ifa, our translator-turned-beat-making protege. We were excited to hear from Ifa, Gelila and other community members about how Beat Making Lab could improve. We've gotten some great feedback so far and look forward to strengthening Beat Making Lab with their input.

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