Who are we?
I am Hatim Belyamani, aka officerfishdumplings (officerfishdumplings.com)
In late July 2012, I partnered with documentary producer and media lawyer Jordan Fletcher, who will join me in Morocco in late September 2012 to begin working on the storytelling component to the project.
What is remix ←→ culture?
I'm setting out to offer an alternate path for remix culture, with the following primary goals:
to create fun, interactive audio-visual remixing experiences that anyone can enjoy.
to educate, by showing images of the musicians and instruments whose sounds you are remixing, while providing a window into their musical traditions, lyrics, life stories, geography, and culture.
- and eventually to develop a mechanism for anyone who has recordings, photos, and related content (packaged in a specified way) to sell them through a remix ←→ culture iPad app, and channel funds back to the source musicians.
What inspired this project?
My 3 big passions have long been: music, photography, and cultural exchange (in the service of bringing the world closer). remix ←→ culture evolved out of my desire to bring all 3 passions together in a meaningful way.
Like so many other electronic musicians, I've embraced the remix culture that’s exploded over the past several years. It’s amazing how easy it’s become to sample anything from anywhere around the world. And I've had a lot of fun doing just that with many of my remixes. But I've also recently discovered a whole new level of satisfaction when remixing music made by people with whom I've crossed paths in a deeper way than by simply (and anonymously) clicking a button to download their music.
This has led me down a journey I invite you to join me on, where we set out to offer an alternate path for remix culture, one that resonates more with the spirit of our times: we wanna know more about where our food comes from, where our clothes are made, whether the producers of the items we consume are paid a fair wage. Similarly, with remix ←→ culture, I’d like to bridge the gap between remix music that we produce or consume and the people behind the original sounds that made the remix music possible. I see here an opportunity to create an experience that is at once musical, multi-sensory, fun, easy-to-use, educational, and accessible to a large number of users and producers worldwide. And through this unique experience, there's an opportunity to appeal to both children and adults, musicians and non-musicians alike, in a way that not only provides a new funding mechanism for musicians around the world, but also increases curiosity in the world about cultures both foreign and familiar.
What I've done with remix ←→ culture so far
A few months ago, I left my job at Apple and embarked on my first field recording trips in remote parts of Morocco. I had limited recording gear, and very little clue as to how any of this adventure would turn out. But I ended up meeting some incredible musicians whom I recorded, photographed, and videotaped in as varied locations as:
- deep in the forests of the Middle Atlas moutains
- the musicians’ frugal homes, some without electricity or running water
- and a 500-year old Kasbah
Take Brahim Fadel:
He’s lived his entire life in the small town of Khenifra, where, despite his most modest means, he and his wife raised a family of 3 children and are still struggling to put all of them through school. But within a couple hours of meeting him, he insisted I join him in his own home for lunch. He also has an incredibly beautiful voice, knows his way around the lotar and kamanja, and a passion for sharing his knowledge of his culture and musical traditions.
My first priority was to ensure the musicians I worked with were happy with the outcome of our encounter. That meant mixing and producing CD-quality versions of their songs and providing them with CD copies. Here's a taste, featuring Brahim on lead vocals and lotar:
Even though they didn’t ask for any compensation, I thanked them for their time and talent with a cash-in-a-small-envelope symbolic gesture. But I wasn’t satisfied with that approach and I knew it wasn’t sustainable for me in the long-run. This was just the beginning my quest for a new revenue model.
When I returned to SF, I created the first work entirely derived from the audio-visual materials I had captured in Morocco. Here's a 5-minute video of me demo'ing this installation:
My installation was premiered at the Priceless arts festival in California this summer, and was a hit with festival passers-by throughout all 3 days. If you wanna see the range of musical fun one can have with this installation, check out this video:
But, this was just a first step towards realizing the vision I outlined for
remix ←→ culture. Yes it does:
- show the faces of the original musicians,
- allow you to manipulate sound and image in a fun, personal way.
- educate you about Moroccan rhythms and musical sensibilities.
But it doesn’t offer access to
- the original songs from which the samples came, or
- the lyrics, or
- the musicians’ stories, their geographic location, or their cultural context.
And most importantly, this experience is only possible if you come to me, or I bring these devices to you.
Where we want to take remix ←→ culture
So now, with your help, I want to take remix ←→ culture to the next level and beyond.
- Imagine having all of these audiovisual remixing capabilities available to you via an iPad app.
- Now imagine you also have access to the original song from which one of the samples came.
- Then you want to know what the song is about, what the lyrics mean, where it was recorded, who performed it, and more about their cultural context.
- Imagine you can explore all of this without ever leaving the remix experience. Say you set up a nice bass groove and a beat bumping through some effects you’re playing with, but you also wanna play a video interview of one of the musicians. When you do so, your remixed music automatically goes down in volume and turns into an improvised soundtrack to the documentary film you have just generated. And if you like the sound of the musician’s voice in the interview, you can turn their voice back into music and bring the other musical elements back up to the forefront.
- And finally, imagine that you can choose which group of musicians you want to have this experience with - by genre, by country, or by lyrical content - and when you make your selection, you make a micropayment, and a portion of your payment goes back to the original musicians.
This is my vision for remix ←→ culture. And even though it all started with Moroccan music, it's a vision I'd like to extend to other corners of this world. Morocco just happens to be the starting point because of the deep ties I have to the country and its music. The goal for the remix ←→ culture iPad app when it becomes available, is it would provide a new framework, which not only I can use when making new field recording trips to Morocco and other countries, but also anyone who has (remix ←→ culture)-friendly content would be able to use. Imagine someone is already recording, photographing, and interviewing musicians in, say Brazil. Once the remix ←→ culture iPad app is available, they would be able to package all their content in a specified format and, therefore deliver the remix ←→ culture experience for their recorded music to users worldwide, and divert funds back to their Brazilian source musicians.
We Need Your Help
On Sept 20, we’re setting out again to remote parts of Morocco to reconnect with some of the musicians from the previous trip, as well as meet new musicians, record their music, and begin to collect translations of their lyrics, their stories, and the stories behind the music. This will allow us to collect enough high-quality content to use as a prototype when we develop the remix ←→ culture iPad app.
But we need your help.
We’ve already sunk considerable costs to upgrade our equipment so that we can collect high-fidelity recordings even in challenging locations. There’s also travel to cover, and, ultimately, developing the iPad software that could offer the possibility of a new funding mechanism for talented musicians around the world.
If we meet our fundraising goal, that will cover roughly half of the costs for this new gear, trip, and musician fees.
If we're able to raise more than that, the money will go to sunk costs and funding for the iPad app. If we fall short this time, we'll launch another kickstarter campaign when we're further into the iPad phase. Because we’re committed to making this project a reality.
What is the cost breakdown?
Recording gear upgrades (Total = $12,809.49)
Sound Devices 788T portable / battery-powered professional recording interface
- Matched pair of Neumann KM184 microphones
- 2 Electro-voice RE20 microphones
Sennheiser MD421 microphone
Audio Technica 4033 microphone
- Accessories (wind screens, foam screens, shock mounts, extra batteries, battery chargers, memory cards / hard drives, microphone cables, sturdy microphone stands, carrying cases)
(Previously owned gear includes Sennheiser e914 mic, another Neumann KM184 mic, Shure SM58, Nikon D7000 camera with SB-600 external flash, an assortment of high-quality lenses, camera tripods, filters, and MacBook Pro with external backup hard drive.)
Musician fees (estimated $400)
- Note: this only refers to initial compensation we'll provide during the late Sept 2012 field recording trip.
- Future proceeds that may be earned via iPad app in-app purchases are not included here.
Travel costs (estimated total of $3200)
- Air travel for ofd - $1414
- Excess baggage fee for mic stands + carrying case - $285
- Air travel for Jordan - $1000
- Travel inside Morocco - $500 estimated
Kickstarter Rewards Fulfillment (depends on # of backers)
- R/W CDs, DVDs + printable stickers
- Traditional Moroccan instruments
- Photo lab fulfillment
- Packaging and shipping
iPad app development (under investigation)
- UI Designer fees
- Developer fees
- Software testing fees
- Music / IP attorney fees
Why is Morocco the starting point?
In addition to the personal history and ties ofd has with the country, Morocco's convenient geographical location has put it at the crossroads of many civilizations and trade routes throughout human history. As a result, the diversity of Moroccan musical traditions is mind-blowing – there’s stuff that is reminiscent of music from places as disparate as West Africa, Ukraine, China, Syria, Brazil, Mali, and Ireland. But, at the same time, Moroccan musical traditions have held on to a rhythmic sensibility that remains quite unique in many respects.
How will we keep you updated?
- We hope you will join our kickstarter backer community - if you do, you will receive email updates from us as our journey progresses.
- We will also post updates to remix-culture.com and remix-culture.ma (the Morocco-specific remix ←→ culture site).
Thank you for your time and support!