Raw Music International is a journalistic team consisting of host Cyrus Moussavi, photographer Jacob Russell and others. The team travels the world and lives with musicians in an effort to bring music “from the most innovative underground scenes [they] can find.”
Raw Music’s pilot episode took an inside look into Kenya’s indigenous music scene. Moussavi visited with Kenyan emcees, producers, and guitarists and helped bring attention to their music. In a video on Raw’s YouTube page, Moussavi meets with hip hop producer Vic da Produca.
During an interview with the producer, Moussavi asks why the majority of studios in Kenya he’s been to use Fruity Loops, a relatively inexpensive audio software. Vic Da Produca explains, “Fruity loops is much easier and cheaper. Because we can’t afford instruments. Instruments are really, really, very, very expensive.” Using a computer and CD of Fruity Loops, artists such as Vic da Produca can have access to thousands of instruments at a fraction of the price.
Raw Music also interviewed blind guitarist Olima Anditi and features a live acoustic video of his song “Apoli” on their YouTube page. Several more videos from Kisumu, Kenya artists are featured on the page as well.
NBC News picked up Raw Music’s most recent inside look into Kurdistan’s indigenous music scene. Moussavi describes the area’s music scene as a “rich musical tradition carried out under the most brutal conditions.” Moussavi goes on to describe how under Saddam Hussein’s rule all music, even singing, was considered political and many musicians who refused to give up their culture and stop singing were sentenced to death.
During Moussavi’s visit to Kurdistan he noticed “a musical void” in the country, an absence of what he describes as the “old musicians”. Since the end of Saddam’s regime and the monetary inflow of oil money entering the country, Moussavi explains many have left music behind in favor of capitalistic pursuits.
Moussavi also notes that the focus on capitalistic pursuits may be due to the Kurd’s long history of suffering. He reports that many feel this economic opportunity to be temporary and expect it to end soon. As a result, many have stopped playing music and have started focusing their time on making money.
This has caused conflict for some families. Moussavi interviewed an 18-year-old musician named Mohammad from the town of Kalal, who told Moussavi, “I crave art, but my family says make money. My mother burned my books. They don’t understand.”
Raw Music International provides publicity to artists who may not otherwise be known internationally. These talented musicians play music for the love of it. They are not famous celebrities with exorbitant wages: they truly are musicians and as such deserve the attention all artists do.
The work in Kisumu, Kenya can be described as the beginnings of a masterpiece and in the words of Eli Sketch, a local Kenyan emcee, “What do you draw before you draw a masterpiece? You draw a sketch.”
– Christopher Kolezynski