Kim Winter

Holly Meadows: What is Wired For Sound? Kim Winters: WFS is a 4×4! Seriously, its a solarpowered mobile recording studio that partners with community radio stations across southern Africa “ to collaborate with, produce and record local artists. We discover the kinds of music being created now and try to capture the experiences of those we meet along the way who are living in sometimes difficult to access parts of the world. WFS builds a professional recording studio at each partner community station, and provides training in recording and production techniques, so that when we leave, the radio can continue to provide a platform for creativity.

HM: How does it work? KW: With a studio that we built inside a 4×4 (which means we can record wherever we find ourselves), we travelled over 12 000km in August/September 2013 to carry out our pilot project, funded by the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA). Our team of three (Simon Attwell and Julio Sigauque of Freshlyground and me, a radio producer) crossed northern Mozambique from the western border town of Catandica and travelled east to the Niassa Nature Reserve on the Tanzanian border, and then on to the coastal town of Pemba and Ilha de Mozambique. ZEITGEIST HM: Where have you recorded? KW: Places both remote and romantic: weve set up next to ruins on Mount Serra Choa; in a mango forest in an old missionary station on the outskirts of Catandica in the province of Manica; and in an abandoned military airfield in Furancungo, Tete. We have recorded in Cinema Pemba “ an abandoned movie house straight out of the 1970s “ and in Fort S£o Jo£o Batista on Ibo Island, in a small room full of old shipping files. (The further down the muddled shelves you investigate, the older the documents.) We partnered with Forum for Community Radio Mozambique for the pilot project.

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In each of the four provinces we visited (Manica, Tete, Cabo Delgado and Nampula) we collaborated with at least one local community radio station. Theyre an entry point into the community, a link to local musicians as well as a vital insight into the workings of the area. Once weve recorded selected local musicians, the radio station hosts a live discussion, plays snippets of each recording and interviews everyone involved about the music, their lives and their dreams. HM: How do you discover local talent? KW: We try and spend at least a week in each area, interacting with local musicians who have established relationships with the community radio station, and following up leads on musicians from conversation and casual interactions at markets and caf©s. Recording and production facilities in these areas are seriously limited or absent. Good quality microphones, recording gear and editing suites are sparse even for the community radio stations, despite the enormous talent around them.

So, given an opportunity to record a demo and have it played on air was a big win for everyone involved on the Mozambican trip; and subsequently, finding musicians has not really been an issue! HM: Why community radio, and why Mozambique? KW: As a group of musicians and radio enthusiasts, we feel strongly about African-generated content. Its great to create music and radio in our own way “ not just following what the rest of the world is doing. Northern Mozambique has been less explored musically and geographically than the southern provinces. Big-scale economic development in Mozambique has recently made headlines, and the intersection between this growth and the effect it has on young peoples lives is a fascinating issue to explore. We travelled through Mozambique in a time where the old world meets the new. HM: Most memorable recording moment from Mozambique? KW: Niassa Nature Reserve, a 42 000km2 reserve lying across the Tanzanian border.

It is said to be one of the last truly wild places left on the continent. We were one of only four self-drives that went through in that year. We decided to visit Niassa (quite a detour) on hearing about an interesting local village band (there is a population of around 40 000 who inhabit the reserve). We made the right decision! The bandleader Dadivo Jos© is a natural inventor “ he has put together a five-piece band, quite literally. Two electric guitars and a bass fashioned out of solid pieces of wood, bicycle brake wires and pot lids, which are linked via simple pickups direct to a collection of radio hi-fis. A drum kit made up of yellow plastic fuel jerry cans, and two microphones consisting of a hairdryer and an old speaker. The John Issa band is simply brilliant, and we were able to record and perform with them on the dry Lugenda riverbed “ elephants listening in from the banks. On hearing their music, a Danish cultural organisation invited the band to visit Denmark on a cultural exchange for a two-week all-expenses paid trip last year. It was the first time Jos© and his brother had been out of Mozambique “ or played to anyone outside the reserve.

HM: Whats next for the musicians youve met? KW: The initial, rough recordings are burnt onto disc for each musician “ to be played on community radio in Mozambique as well as to be a demo for each musician to use. Once we are back in SA, the team works on selected tracks with more established musicians and producers from around Africa to make an album. We released a 17-track album on iTunes last year (Wired for Sound Mozambique). Any proceeds generated from the music will be fed back into the community radio stations to help establish permanent production facilities. Usually, if musicians want to record in these areas, they are charged a hefty fee by amateur producers and the recordings seldom get any airplay. Our plan is to remain in contact with the journalists and musicians who have indicated a desire to continue a conversation, and to see how the vision of the artists can have a celebrated space on a public platform.

HM: Favourite track on Wired for Sound Mozambique? KW: Mozambique Elelo by Harry Potter. Harry is a tour guide we met on Ilha de Mozambique. He is a jack-of-all-trades and speaks seven languages. He wrote a song about heritage and what his grandfather did for Mozambique “ and the legacy he hopes to carry forward in his own life. He, Julio and Simon worked on this track in an empty room with no windows on the island, and [South African musician] Albert Frost added the finishing touches back in South Africa. It is a beautiful mix of traditional and contemporary sounds. We chose to record next to the radio station, OnHipiti.

The abandoned room was acoustically brilliant “ a great place to set up a permanent recording studio! HM: How do you make the music more accessible to modern audiences? KW: Our experience has been fascinating. Working in urban areas gives access to a larger group of young musicians, but without much variation sound-wise (hip-hop, rap and the pervasive auto-tune Cher effect dominate). Conversely, the rural villages of northern Mozambique have provided original and very interesting musical material. Few people in these villages have cellphones and theres almost no access to email or Facebook. For some young musicians in these areas, combining traditional styles with a more contemporary sound and message is important, and we have heard an eclectic collection of songs using local languages and rhythms.

HM: Any stand-out female musicians you met in Mozambique? KW: Inªs, 24, is an aspiring journalist and singer from Pemba who, together with Community Radio station manager Donna Maria, started a womens show on Radio Sem Fronteiras. Inªs believes that Mozambican girls are fiercely talented but incredibly shy and have not been taught how to put themselves out there “ she hopes to change that through her own music and her work as a journalist. HM: Whats next for WFS? KW: We are about to go Malawi to work with four radio stations: Mzimba, Nkhotakota, Mudzi wathu and Dzimwe. Were setting up a recording studio at each station as well as facilitating realtime collaborations between musicians we meet in Malawi and a group of hip-hop students in New York and Berlin, through a project called Re:Educate. Well also be releasing Wired for Sound Malawi on iTunes. Listen out for it!

Kim Winter

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