What is the first melodious natural sound anyone can think of?
Most people think of bird songs as the natural melody around us. Birds provide music and melody in any natural environment, connecting us to nature.
The #SkyislandBeatbox project is a collaborative project born on twitter. It involves musician Ben Mirin from New York, photographer Prasenjeet Yadav from Bangalore, and VV Robin to take bird songs to a larger audience. Ben uses beatbox to create music with bird song and Prasen plans to make a video that will include images of the rare birds around us to convey the wonder and the beauty of these birds to us, who can see these birds in our backyards.
This project aimed to communicate conservation threats to Western Ghats sky islands where several threatened and endemic birds exist. Recent research indicated that some populations of these birds span only a few square kilometers large, isolated genetically into smaller populations on some of the mountain-tops. Although these birds were common locally, on the sky islands, most people living around these habitats were unaware of these birds or the uniqueness of these birds.
We conducted 10 bird song and beatbox events #SkyIslandBeatbox, that reached about 2400 participants in five cities/towns - two on the sky island mountain-tops with several threatened, endemic birds. These events included people from various walks of life - Forest Department managers, school students, college students, research students, NGOs, government institutions and various citizens from each of the towns we went to.
This series of events were also well covered in the local media. The project was covered on the front page of two national newspapers, and appeared in 15 additional print media. The project was also featured twice on national television news, twice on regional television news, twice on a city radio, once on an international podcast and several electronic media sources.
Through these events we were able to communicate the uniqueness and the conservation threats of these birds in people’s backyards in the Western Ghats. We used a unique combination of natural bird song, beatbox with music, exciting photos, and science. We told the stories of five of the most special birds on these sky islands. We had our audience listen to the songs as sung by the birds in nature, showed them images of these birds in the wild, with stories on their natural histories, and their fascinating evolutionary histories. We then converted these bird songs to musical themes that the participants could connect to based on the musical theme. We conducted workshops for students to make their own music with these threatened bird songs and our recording equipment. In some locations we were also able to take students and other citizens on a birdwatching trip to locate some of the birds that we featured in our songs.
This project was clearly a fun project, it had music, bird songs, science, great photographs that all came together. It was also clear that the personal chemistries of the three collaborators was excellent and they were all having fun doing this project. Although the medium was a lot of fun, the message conveyed had deep implications - everyone thought bird songs are the most melodious natural sounds around them, but had lost connect with these. Our project got people to reconnect with the nature around them, we added additional scientific information on the special birds around them, took them bird watching and showed them these birds, make music with these bird songs and allowed people to make their own music.
Certainly this is something that we all look forward to conducting again!
Final Event List:
1. Student Conference in Conservation Science (SCCS), Bangalore, India
(8 Sept 2015): over 400 students reached
Collaborator : SCCS Bangalore www.sccs-bng.org
2. Birdwatching and recording bird song workshop, Bangalore (9 Sept 2015)
50 participants reached
3. Beatbox techniques workshop (10 Sept 2015): 20 participants reached
4. Rangoli Bengaluru Metro Art Centre, Sky Island Beatbox workshop (11Sept 2015): 20 participants reached
5. Bee Museum, Ooty, Tamilnadu, India (12 Sept 2015): 100 participants reached.
Collaborators: Keystone Foundation www.keystone-foundation.org, Nilgiri Natural History Society and Bee Museum www.nnhs.in
6. Ooty birdwatching workshop (13 Sept 2015): 30 participants participated
Collaborator: Keystone Foundation www.keystone-foundation.org
7. Kodakanal, Tamilnadu, India (15 Sept 2015): 100 participants reached
Collaborators: Rotary International, Kodaikanal Chapter, Vattakanal Conservation Trust www.vattakanalconservationtrust.org
8. St.Theresa’s college, Kochi, Kerala, India (17 Sept 2015): 900 participants reached
Collaborators: St. Theresa’s college, Zoology Department www.teresas.ac.in
Kerala State Forest Department www.forest.kerala.gov.in
9. Kerala State Forest Department, Headquarters, Trivandrum (18 Sept 2015): 600 participants reached
Collaborator: Kerala State Forest Department www.forest.kerala.gov.in
10. National Centre for Biological Science, Bangalore (19 Sept 2015): 150 participants reached
All programmes were curated by Aparna Banerjee, Science and Society programme of National Centre for Biological Sciences with inputs from Sudebi Thakurata.
Beatboxing with Birds NYC
Funding: National Geographic, IBCN, The Shola Trsut
Collaborator: Kerala Forest Department
Support: Keystone Foundation, Nilgiri Natural History Society, VCT, Rotary International, SCCS Bangaluru. INATCH Kodaikanal
Press Coverage of the event: