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 A Celebration of Homegrown Music from Washington, DC 

Out of Our Shells:

Introducing Soroche

Introducing Soroche
Introducing Soroche

Introducing Soroche

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Introducing Paapa-Berchie

Introducing Paapa-Berchie

00:45
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Introducing Cheick Hamala Diabate and Rob Coltun from the Tributary Project

Introducing Cheick Hamala Diabate and Rob Coltun from the Tributary Project

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About the Project

A brief history of Out of Our Shells

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The Humanities Truck Grant

In the summer of 2021, American University professor Aram Sinnreich, his PhD advisee Neil Perry, and his musical partner Dunia Best received a grant from the Humanities Truck Foundation to create a mobile recording studio. Our aim was to bring free, professional-quality recording equipment and expertise to the doorstep of deserving musicians across the DC region, with an emphasis on capturing the diverse range of sounds, styles, and cultures the region has to offer. We especially wanted to help people "out of their shells" after nearly two years in relative isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic — and to bring these diverse musical communities into greater contact with one another.

The Recording Project

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With the help of local world music promoter Multiflora Productions and media coverage from local outlets like DCist and WTOP, the Out of Our Shells team fielded a call for any and all musicians in the Washington, DC area to submit their work for inclusion in the project. We sorted through a great many wonderful submissions, and eventually selected fourteen local artists, each of them representing a different community, genre, and neighborhood in the area.

Throughout the winter and spring of 2022, the Out of Our Shells team did weekly recording sessions with our selected artists — sometimes in the truck itself, sometimes in a public outdoor area using the truck as a control room,  sometimes in the homes and studios of the artists, and sometimes in neighborhood institutions like places of worship and nightclubs. We were assisted by the undergraduate and masters-level students in the class taught at AU that semester by Sinnreich & Perry, entitled "Musical Cultures & Industries." In addition to assisting with recording, the students also assisted the team with capturing oral histories and b-roll video of the sessions.

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Compilation and Concert

During the summer of 2022, the Out of Our Shells team — led by Perry, who has a long professional history as a Grammy-winning sound engineer — mixed and mastered each of the tracks we'd recorded over the course of the winter and spring.  Additionally, we organized a free, live concert featuring eight of the artists from the compilation, which took place outdoors at Rhizome DC on August 14th — the same date on which the compilation was released publicly.

Following the concert, the team will pursue next steps: 1) Donating the archive of music and video footage to libraries and archives so they can be accessed freely by the residents of Washington, DC and the world at large; and 2) Starting work on a documentary film project highlighting the music, musicians, musical traditions, and musical subcultures represented by the artists in our compilation.

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Press Coverage

D.C.-area artists who recorded in a van during covid finally play live (Washington Post)

D.C. musicians record album with everything from bagpipes to hip-hop in mobile studio (WAMU-FM)

DC music truck project helps spotlight local artists (WTOP)
Food truck turned mobile recording studio opens doors to musicians (ABC-7 TV)
D.C. Musicians Record Album With Everything From Bagpipes To Hip-Hop In Mobile Studio (DCist)
Out of Our Shells (ABC 7 News DC — WJLA)
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License and Copyright

All music, video, images, and text on this site are licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0. This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms.