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Young Ethiopian Musicians Make Beats with a Message

In this new video produced by the Beat Making Lab in partnership with IntraHealth International and PBS Digital Studios, viewers can see the young aspiring musicians who gathered in June to learn how to make beats—and how to take charge of their own sexual and reproductive health. The video is the first in a series of six. It premiered today on VICE, and will be featured over the next several weeks in the Wall Street Journal and on Public Radio International’s The World.

During the IntraHealth-sponsored lab sessions in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Beat Making Lab team trained a group of 18- to 25-year-olds to compose driving, original beats based on a fusion of traditional rhythms and modern techniques. The students then learned to use software to transform the beats into their own unique compositions.

Over the course of the two-week training, participants learned to create powerful musical messages for their peers in Ethiopia, where only about half of citizens have access to the family planning methods they want. IntraHealth and Beat Making Lab staff challenged the group to express their attitudes toward family planning and other reproductive health issues in their compositions.

At the end of the training, IntraHealth and the Beat Making Lab established two equipped labs in Addis Ababa community centers—one at Save Your Generation and another at Music Mayday Ethiopia. The labs allow the now-trained musicians to train others and continue to make music that speaks to local youth. The labs are available to the Ministry of Health and other partners to commission music to reach young people with health-related messages.

At the 2013 International Conference on Family Planning in November, IntraHealth will host a session with the young musicians and the Beat Making Lab team. During the session, the group will release the music they developed during the training—all in Ethiopia’s national language of Amharic. Session attendees will have the opportunity to make beats of their own and use them to engage young people in discussions and debates about reproductive health.

“Participating in the Beat Making Lab workshop in Addis Ababa was truly inspiring,” says Laura Hoemeke, IntraHealth’s director of communications and advocacy. “I saw the way the participants became more confident in their own musical skills, and in expressing their opinions—about not only music but also about their own health and well-being—over the course of the two-week training. The young participants acquired concrete skills that they could immediately apply.”

IntraHealth first partnered with the Beat Making Lab, an initiative of ARTVSM, as part of IntraHealth’s SwitchPoint conference in 2012 (and on the Health Worker Beat in Senegal). SwitchPoint is about the unusual intersection of ideas and collaborations to solve global health challenges. The lab’s goals of cultural exchange and social impact combine with IntraHealth’s vision—of a world where all people have the best possible opportunity for health and well-being—to create exciting new ways to influence global health together.

IntraHealth works to introduce innovative solutions to global health challenges and to empower young people to address the health challenges they and their peers face. The collaboration between IntraHealth and the Beat Making Lab is one way we are working to ensure that all people worldwide—including young people—have access to health workers and the opportunity for healthy lives.