Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 26 May 2019

David Attenborough has launched a remix competition

Renowned naturalist launches remix competition for 93rd birthday, though original performers will not be rewarded

David Attenborough is looking for someone to remix a recording he took of a tribe in Bali from 1956. Getty Images
David Attenborough is looking for someone to remix a recording he took of a tribe in Bali from 1956. Getty Images

In rather unexpected music news, Sir David Attenborough is launching a remix competition to celebrate the his 93rd birthday.

The competition is soliciting edits of Gender Wayang, a track from the broadcast legend's 2018 release My Field Recordings From Across The Planet. The three-minute recording is from Attenborough's 1956 trip to Indonesia and features traditional gamelan music from Bali played on two metallophones and a set of drums.

The ancient melodies of Gender Wayang are performed by Indonesian gamelan ensembles during spiritual rituals. Sir David managed to capture one such performance on a portable cassette recorder during a komodo dragon-hunting trip to Bali for the BBC.

For the competition, Attenborough is teaming up with PRS Foundations and the Songlines Music Awards. The judging panel for the competition will consist of Accidental Records head honcho and electronic musician Matthew Herbert, acid jazz pioneer Giles Peterson, Northern Irish experimentalist Hannah Peel, Mercury-nominated trip hopper Ghostpoet, Catatonia singer Cerys Matthews, and Attenborough.

The panel of judges will select the six best reinterpretations of the track, which will then be put to a public vote to decide the winner, who will be announced on November 30th at Hackney venue Evolutionary Arts Hackney (EartH).

Controversially, especially considering the PRS Foundation's involvement, it appears that none of the proceeds from the track will find their way back to the original performers or their estates.

The PRS is responsible in the UK for protecting the rights of musicians and composers, including collecting royalties for performance, licensing or sales of live or recorded work. The competitions rules, however, state that "all revenues generated from additional sub-licensing will be shared equally between the music creator, BBC Worldwide and Sir David Attenborough’s affiliated charity Fauna & Flora International."

While it's probably safe to assume that most traditional Indonesian musicians in the 1950s were not members of, or affiliated to the PRS, or even any Indonesian equivalent, it would seem to be in the spirit of the organisation's mission to at least offer some sort of recompense to the performers whose work will be remixed, especially given that the organisation has in recent years, in partnership with its French equivalent SACEM, launched a number of campaigns internationally, including in the GCC, to ensure its members are reimbursed appropriately in country's where monitoring and collection regimes may be less regimented than is standard in the West.

Updated: May 9, 2019 02:27 PM

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