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Beat Making Lab Mixes Health And Music In Ethiopia

Beat Making Lab
Beat Making Lab


The Beat Making lab started as a class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But its creators, Stephen Levitin – aka, Apple Juice Kid – and Pierce Freelon, quickly took it to a new level.

They packed up their lab and toured Central America, the South Pacific and Africa, teaching youth the essentials of beat making. Their most recent adventure was in Ethiopia, where they partnered with Chapel Hill non-profit IntraHealth.

They set up the initial lab in June and began working on music with a group of youths. Levitin and Freelon came back to the U.S. after that first lab, but only for a time.

 "When we went back, just a few weeks ago, we heard the progress they were making," Levitin said.

Freelon and Levitin liked what they heard. They described on The State of Things today the process that makes the beat making lab work.

"There are two songs that are made in a beat making lab. One where I do the majority of the work while they observe," Levitin said. "Then there is a second song called Des Yelal, and that one is done entirely by the students."

Freelon said that the work the students do in these labs and on songs like Des Yelal is top-notch and doesn't sound amateur at all.

"I'm still bouncing. That is one of my favorite songs," Freelon said.

WUNC is partnering with the Beat Making Lab and The Town of Chapel Hilll on a youth oriented project this spring as part of WUNC's American Graduate Project.


Alex Granados joined The State of Things in July 2010. He got his start in radio as an intern for the show in 2005 and loved it so much that after trying his hand as a government reporter, reader liaison, features, copy and editorial page editor at a small newspaper in Manassas, Virginia, he returned to WUNC. Born in Baltimore but raised in Morgantown, West Virginia, Alex moved to Raleigh in time to do third grade twice and adjust to public school after having spent years in the sheltered confines of a Christian elementary education. Alex received a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also has a minor in philosophy, which basically means that he used to think he was really smart but realized he wasn’t in time to switch majors. Fishing, reading science fiction, watching crazy movies, writing bad short stories, and shooting pool are some of his favorite things to do. Alex still doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up, but he is holding out for astronaut.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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