A new digital series from PBS will shed some national light on one of the Triangle's more unique music initiatives.
In the fall of 2011, local producer Apple Juice Kid, otherwise known as Stephen Levitin, began teaching a class at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Called the Beat Making Lab, the course equipped college students with the skills and know how to produce high-quality hip-hop beats. In the spring, Mark Katz, the music professor who helped create the class and taught alongside Apple Juice, wasn't able to participate, so Pierce Freelon, a hip-hop scholar as well as the MC for Durham's jazz-and-hip-hop-bridging The Beast, stepped in to take his place. After releasing a compilation of beats from the Lab's students—all of which sampled music from N.C.-based artists—Apple Juice and Freelon took a more ambitious step: They traveled to Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to set up another lab in collaboration with the non-profit Yole!Africa.
The success of those projects will be extended with Beat Making Lab, a weekly web series produced by PBS Digital Studios. New episodes will be uploaded every Wednesday to the Beat Making Lab YouTube channel. The 20-week series chronicles Freelon and Apple Juice's efforts in the Congo as well as similar two-week initiatives in Panama, Senegal and Fiji.
Per a press release:
During the month of May, Beat Making Lab will partner with Global Health organization Intrahealth and Speak Up Africa to set up all-female workshops in Dakar, Senegal. These sessions will showcase the talent of seven female MCs, singers and producers who, through their music, aim to spotlight various health issues in Africa.
Beginning in June, the real-time series will feature episodes from Suva, Fiji.
The first episode of Beat Making Lab is streaming above.