During a couple trips to Africa in 2009 and 2010, Chris Kirkley, stumbled on and documented an emerging music file sharing network. It’s similar to what’s going on all over the world: someone uploads a song, then another million someones download the song. Except in the West African countries that Kirkley was in, all the sharing was done on cell phones, which vastly outnumber computers in that part of the world. Instead of sitting in a dark bedroom, raiding a server of the complete Beatles catalog, people were getting together in the street or in cafes and swapping songs via Bluetooth. Micro SD cards are what cell phones use for storage, and when somebody brings a phone in for service, vendors copy all the music from the cards to swap with other people.

Kirkley collected a bunch of the tunes and released a compilation cassette tape. Those songs have just come out on vinyl, and he’s tracked down every musician on the record to share in the profits (not an easy task). The songs are by local musicians making music on whatever crude instruments and rogue software they can find. Although the songs are by different artists, there’s a kind of digital haze that hovers over the production quality.

 

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.