Kutiman mixes YouTube
March 4, 2009 12:58 AM   Subscribe

Kutiman, the masterful Israeli funk musician and producer, outdoes himself by creating Thru-You: Multiple YouTube clips (mostly instructional and performance videos) edited into slick mega-mashups. They're not just patchwork assemblages, they're sample-based original creations that coud hold their own on anyone's album... Plus they're 100% audiovisual! It's a work of next-level genius.
(sorry for the hyperbole, but my mind has just been blown)
More Kutiman here. Music video here. And for you Pitchfork aficionados, here.
posted by Silky Slim (171 comments total) 317 users marked this as a favorite
Also includes a little "Making Of" video (track 8).
posted by Silky Slim at 1:09 AM on March 4, 2009

this is amazing!
posted by scose at 1:09 AM on March 4, 2009

Hyperbole justified. I've just heard the first track, The mother of all funk chords, and am gibbering.

Stunning. Am suitably stunned.
posted by quarsan at 1:25 AM on March 4, 2009

That is really quite amazing. The combination of all these musicians, 'jamming' together through editing is really quite striking. Great post, thanks.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:33 AM on March 4, 2009

Love the hyper-fashionable web design, not to mention the music.
posted by Nomiconic at 1:33 AM on March 4, 2009

Damn! "I'm New" and "Babylon Band" just blew me the hell away. This is the best thing I've seen in Quite Some Time.
posted by freebird at 1:43 AM on March 4, 2009

Yes, brilliant stuff! YOu can click on the credits link while it's playing a song and get links to all the source vids on you tube!
posted by Catblack at 2:00 AM on March 4, 2009

This is absolutely amazing. Wow thank you for this post!
posted by 5imian at 2:00 AM on March 4, 2009

This is incredible! Not just a mashing-together of various stuff, but amazing on every level.

On a related note somehow, a friend just turned me on to Fastforward John Cage Dirty Blue Mud Remix, which, after 45 seconds of opening silliness, is positively mind-blowing.

I'm going to go right now and just watch all of it again. Funk fixes stuff deep down that you don't even know is broken.

Stellar post.
posted by SteelyDuran at 2:24 AM on March 4, 2009 [15 favorites]

Having watched a few more of these, it's like a building sense of astonishment. I'm slightly in awe of the kind of mind that can take dozens and dozens of unrelated sounds and construct something like this. 'I'm New' in particular is stunning.

This kind of thing is interesting, because it's the first time I've seen a mashup that is itself using content from the web, rather than just remixing professionally produced media. Pretty damn cool.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:26 AM on March 4, 2009

OUTSTANDING! (sorry for shouting)
posted by Duug at 2:29 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Glorious. Each time I thought of skipping through to another track, the second my trackpad finger twitched I was immediately frozen with astonishment and glee. Several times I got that frisson of bliss that runs through you when you hear especially transcendent choral music, you know?

"I'm New" was especially amazing, but the whole thing was brilliant. Hyperbole my peachy behind; you were just stating facts.
posted by Mizu at 2:32 AM on March 4, 2009

Check out his About video, all done with what looks like semi-pro gear in a bedroom.

Sweet. I'm going to listen to them all again.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:02 AM on March 4, 2009

So impressive it's caused my many long years of lurking to come to an end. Hyperbole justified: awesome achievement and nifty tunes too boot.

hello metafilter by the way, nice to meet you
posted by Hartham's Hugging Robots at 3:25 AM on March 4, 2009 [6 favorites]

I've been digging on some Israeli funk for a while now, like Karolina, Funk'N'stein, The Ramirez Brothers, etc. but Kutiman is doing something truly outstanding here. Wow!
posted by bonefish at 3:26 AM on March 4, 2009

I've always had a hard time getting through 60 seconds of any pure mashup. I can appreciate spinning records and fusing beats and I know it's what the kids are into these days, but it always leaves me cold in any originality/musicality sense. Leaves me feeling all poo-pooey and "so you've taken a Zepplin riff put it over a bootsy collins line and are running techno beats underneath it....and? AND?"
This sounds/looks/feels like actual 'creation' instead of reassembly (if there can be such a thing in music). Thanks for posting this.
Also, John Cage piece. Again, such a fine line between reassembly and 'creation'. Nice. *looks for better word than creation*
posted by greenskpr at 3:27 AM on March 4, 2009

I support your hyperbole. Justified.
posted by 6am at 3:44 AM on March 4, 2009

Pfft. I liked it better when ....

Actually I can't think of anything to compare it with. This is amazing. Thanks for posting!
posted by kcds at 3:57 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wow! I'm very impressed with that. That's a new medium right there.
posted by jiroczech at 3:57 AM on March 4, 2009

What a joy! It's pretty much established now: Collage (or bricolage) is the dominant art form of our time. And why not? We have so much to draw from. Once we've patched the media of the past 100 years together in every imaginable way, and exhausted all the possibilities of one-chord, one-key music, humanity will resume producing original material.
posted by Faze at 4:13 AM on March 4, 2009

This is excellent!

Also excellent : this quote from the Pitchfork review:
" Ultimately, I don't think it's important to know why we like the music we do, because the act of liking it is self-justifying."

Sweet! Thanks for the offer Pitchfork, but turns out I don't need to read you after all!
posted by mannequito at 4:19 AM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have never seen a better expression of what the internet is for.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 4:25 AM on March 4, 2009

I add my amazed thanks. THANK YOU I'M AMAZED!
posted by taz at 4:57 AM on March 4, 2009

You had me at "Israeli funk musician".
posted by Jofus at 4:58 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

"I'm New" is jaw droppingly brilliant. The ending is incredible.
posted by fire&wings at 5:02 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

fire&wings - agreed. that song has just about knocked me onto my arse.
posted by Jofus at 5:11 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Holy shit.
posted by flashboy at 5:16 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wow. The second track sounds like it was lifted straight from a Thievery Corporation album. (And I'm not saying it like that's a bad thing.)
posted by caution live frogs at 5:20 AM on March 4, 2009

Really, really loving these. And I'm reminded of Mic in Track (previously) by MeFi's own starkeffect.
posted by avoision at 5:26 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Amazing. And truly audio-visual as well; I tried opening other tabs and just listening, but it wasn't the same.
posted by palliser at 5:37 AM on March 4, 2009

Wow, just echoing that this is really fantastic. I don't have anything else to add that hasn't been said, but things like this are what I absolutely love MetaFilter for.
posted by malthas at 5:47 AM on March 4, 2009

posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:48 AM on March 4, 2009

Note: "Meh" in this context means I am actually literally weeping with joy that someone took all of these struggling amateurs and used their heartfelt homemade efforts to create a beautiful collaboration. If this is what music sounds like created by an AI I heartily welcome our digital overlords.

I mean really, when that woman starts singing with the kid in her lap in #5 I just burst out crying with love for my internet. It's so powerful it changed the meaning of Meh.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:52 AM on March 4, 2009 [12 favorites]

The first work of genius of the new millennium as far as I'm concerned.
posted by unSane at 5:56 AM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Stunning work. Thanks.
posted by fake at 5:57 AM on March 4, 2009

your favorite band su--woah. no. no, it doesn't. wow.

this is the second lurker de-cloak you've snagged in a single post. is there a record for that sort of thing?
posted by 0x029a at 5:58 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by xorry at 5:58 AM on March 4, 2009

Hi HHR! Welcome aboard. Great link Silky Slim. Thanks much.
posted by netbros at 6:03 AM on March 4, 2009

Amazing execution on an interesting idea. Nice find!

I hope he sent the link to some of those amateur artists he was sampling from; I bet most of them would get a big kick out of it.
posted by p3t3 at 6:03 AM on March 4, 2009

It's pretty cool to follow some of these links from each Kutiman video and see what the raw ingredients are in each case. Some of the originals are amazing stand-alone (especially the singers), but become something new and different and crazily good when remixed.

I'd be very interested to find out how he goes about finding his song components, and whether he contacts the people he samples.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:21 AM on March 4, 2009

I mean really, when that woman starts singing with the kid in her lap in #5 I just burst out crying with love for my internet.


It's pretty cool to follow some of these links from each Kutiman video and see what the raw ingredients are in each case. Some of the originals are amazing stand-alone (especially the singers)...

Too true - the original for that is just wonderful. A great voice, and the little looks she gives her kid are just heart-melting.
posted by flashboy at 6:25 AM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Daaaaaaamn. FUNK!

Yet Another Example Of How Putting Even Stupid Stuff Online Allows Awesomeness To Be Created.
posted by DU at 6:28 AM on March 4, 2009

I de-lurked for this as well, to say "meh." This time in the true sense of "meh". (Don't worry, "meh" clarification follows.)

Sure, what he's doing here is pretty neat, and I was bobbing my head, and found myself also taken with the girl with the baby on her lap. It's a nice project with a handsome result, and quite an impressive amount of editing work.

However, after watching part of about six of these mashups, I decided to check the credits, and found this video of contrabass trombone riffing MUCH more enjoyable than anything I had just seen.

I can't tell if this makes me out of touch with these kids on my lawn, or just more in touch with jazz, melody, improvisation, and that miraculous moment of coaxing a note out of an intimate bond with a physical instrument. Hoping for the latter.
posted by scrowdid at 6:32 AM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Awesomest awesome that ever awesomed.
posted by rusty at 6:40 AM on March 4, 2009

I just stopped hating YouTube.
posted by rocket88 at 6:42 AM on March 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Oh - because I feel kinda stupid about having my first MeFi post be "meh"... that was more meant to be a currently-topical way to frame a question I was asking the Universe, namely "I don't see it. What am I missing here?"
posted by scrowdid at 6:44 AM on March 4, 2009

wow! Amazing...thanks for the post.
posted by dhruva at 6:46 AM on March 4, 2009

I can't tell if this makes me out of touch with these kids on my lawn, or just more in touch with jazz, melody, improvisation, and that miraculous moment of coaxing a note out of an intimate bond with a physical instrument. Hoping for the latter.

Honestly? I don't think it has to be either. The 'neato!' factor is, I believe, pretty high among those who use computers every day for a living, and especially among those who do any kind of creative work that uses computers. Anyone who's worked creatively using digital tools knows the sweet spot you can get in, whether simply typing or using some kind of specialist kit like a sampling pad, where it feels very much like what (I imagine) it feels like to master something complex and physical like a saxophone - the point where the tools fade into the background, and what you're putting together, whether it be from puffs of air and bits of metal or fragments and beats of other people's Youtube dalliances, becomes the single thing you can see.

There's been a lot of hot air since massive drops in cost and accessibility of creative tools (and the means of displaying creative work) heralded the dreaded social media wanker's pet phrase, 'user-generated content'. So to see something so well executed put together from so many sources by someone both technically skilled and musically talented (because understanding rythym, melody and musical structure is just as, if not more, important in this kind of editing than in playing an instrument) is a major buzz.

This kind of emergent creativity and stuff that wasn't even technically possible a decade ago is mindblowing. We've gone from eight-tracks to music created from the digital meanderings of dozens of people from all over the world inside of my lifetime, and I'm not even in my thirties yet.

So, yeah, it might not be your thing, but it is an amazing thing nonetheless.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:46 AM on March 4, 2009 [11 favorites]

Lawrence Lessig is having an orgasm right now.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 6:50 AM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Just when I thought that first clip had peaked in awesomeness, the theremin guy showed up...

This is one of the 10 best MeFi posts I've ever seen.

Someone get the Asian kid with a trumpet a record deal.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:56 AM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Funk. Afrobeat. Psychedelic. Israel.

Truly unexpected brilliance. Thanks!
posted by steef at 7:03 AM on March 4, 2009

Oh, BTW, unless all those dozens of videos were published under a suitable Creative Commons license, this Kutiman is violating their copyright. That same horrible crime committed by music piraters. So anyone who believes that downloading albums is "theft" should turn him into the police if they get a chance.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:06 AM on March 4, 2009

Joe Beese: Me too on the theremin. I was like "Oh no! Here comes the theremin!"

This has utterly made my month. I think I will probably survive March because of this.
posted by rusty at 7:06 AM on March 4, 2009

absolutely incredible.

expect to see this hitting the mainstream in about a week, and getting huge thereafter.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:12 AM on March 4, 2009

So yeah, nth-ing the amazed comments here. Reminds me a lot of Manu Chao... I particularly like the Just a Lady track, already in rotation on my iTunes. What I think is particularly brilliant here is that one could easily use this same format to create many different genres of music, not just funk/techno/reggae/electro. I am astonished at the patience it takes to create this kind of art, I can't imagine the countless hours it took to collect/edit/filter/re-sample all of the movies.

What I am curious to know is his process - did he have a track idea in mind, and then go out and find samples that fit the idea, or did he simply find a root track that appealed to him, and then build a song around it? As many of you have said, some of the individual bits are excellent in their own right, and perhaps some of those people will now get exposure they might not have had.

As an intellectual property lawyer, I am also curious - who "owns" this music? As an open-source, free re-mix culture zealot, I don't think anyone does or should own it, and it is clearly creative fair use, but I could easily see mainstream artists with a lot of resources "stealing" a hook from one of these tracks as the basis for a new song that they then attempt to make a lot of money from. And we all know the hooks bring you back....

Kutiman says on his site that the album is meant only to promote the artists featured in the tracks, but it's not clear that he actually contacted any of them (thus the disclaimer page where he states "Through-You is a venue for music and art appreciation. The videos and music is shared out of love and respect, and is only meant to help expose and promote the featured artists. If you wish to remove...") One of the singers actually says that what she is singing is part of a track from her new album, so I wonder if any of the musicians will complain...

Another big question is, does YouTube own, or claim to own, any of this? I haven't read YT's Terms of Service in years, but just a quick perusal finds this:
"You agree not to distribute in any medium any part of the Website, including but not limited to User Submissions (defined below), without YouTube's prior written authorization."
Just stripping clips out of YouTube for remix is also an apparent violation of YouTube's ToS (which I personally think are crap)....
posted by piedrasyluz at 7:14 AM on March 4, 2009

What am I missing here?

An understanding of how music works maybe? I couldn't imagine even being genius enough to write this song, much less assemble it from the massive database of a cappella clips on the tubes. It's just beautiful music, made in an entirely new way. This must be what it was like to see Grandmaster Flash in the park in 1979--the mind boggles at the possibilities even as the ass shimmys to the fuckin real jams.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:23 AM on March 4, 2009 [6 favorites]

posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:25 AM on March 4, 2009

Killer. Wow. Yes. What a brilliant artist and what a great post. Gave me that inspired goosebumps feeling and made me want to get busy making music. Yeah, I hear the Manu Chao as well, and also a Spanish musician named El Guincho, who uses sampling in much the same freewheeling-yet-in-the-pocket way.
posted by lukievan at 7:30 AM on March 4, 2009

Like EBN except 10+ years later and taking advantage of off-the-shelf equipment instead of making the equipment from scratch because it didn't exist otherwise. But - this is remarkable work and well worth the high praise.
posted by eccnineten at 7:31 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

This reminded me of a guy who claimed to have no musical skill, but shot video of himself playing various instruments and made a song with video, sampling each note or maybe a series of notes. Except Kutiman is really good at it, and takes from many divergent sources.

This is not making mash-ups. This is crate digging on YouTube. The end product, songwise, is very impressive, but the dazzle is from the video presentation that displays something of the sources, and our knowledge that YouTube is full of mediocre musicians or kids goofing around. Anyone can do this, but Kutiman did it with skill.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:36 AM on March 4, 2009

filthy light thief, you're thinking of Lasse Gjertsen, and I agree, definitely some similarities in the effect and likely the tools used.

You're right, this is crate digging - but in the world's biggest crate, with all the usual rules about what goes into that crate (record labels, what a shop stocks, other crate diggers getting the good stuff) removed. This is crate-digging on a global scale, with infinitely renewable source records.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:40 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is absolutely fantastic. This is exactly where our culture is fuckin' going. Outstanding. Yes! YES!!
posted by cavalier at 7:46 AM on March 4, 2009

This is an amazing post. I tried to explain the whole thing to my GF. My GF meh'd, "What's that noise?"

posted by schyler523 at 7:51 AM on March 4, 2009

This guy is a genius. Amazing. Not just musically but visually as well. Foreshadowing the piano in I'm New, a lot of atmospherics with a bunch of disconnected home video, it's awesome given what he's working with.
posted by effwerd at 7:52 AM on March 4, 2009

I realized after watching some more of these that it's basically a visualization of what sample-based musicians have been doing for years: sifting through pre-recorded material, taking choice bits, and rearranging them to create something totally new. If you had source videos for a Four Tet, Rjd2, or DJ Shadow song, it would probably look similar. Youtube instrument demos make a good source because they're a single sound instead of a whole song! As someone who makes sample-based music, I really appreciate both the insight into his working method, and the sheer beauty of it. It would definitely stand alone on an album.
posted by scose at 8:00 AM on March 4, 2009

yup, my body likes this:)
posted by tokidoki at 8:02 AM on March 4, 2009

songs down for anyone else, now?
posted by leotrotsky at 8:05 AM on March 4, 2009

The "dub" one, which follows the first track, is very, very awesome. Wow.
posted by everichon at 8:10 AM on March 4, 2009

Ok, while I catch my breath here, how did they manage to embed the youtube videos without letting you link back to youtube? Is it not really a youtube player and they just jacked it? A little peculiar that a remixer would not let you take his finished product, but there are ways...
posted by cavalier at 8:13 AM on March 4, 2009

This is magnificent. Thanks for cheapening most of my favorites.
posted by lester the unlikely at 8:13 AM on March 4, 2009

This is not really a mashup, is it? It's more a sampladelica along the lines of DJ Shadow or The Avalanches. Whatever genre, I'm ripping this and putting on my mp3 player when I get home. Excellent stuff!
posted by Mach5 at 8:18 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

cavalier: looks like the whole page is a flash movie, with the youtube embedded within.
posted by Mach5 at 8:20 AM on March 4, 2009

Yeah, this is not a mashup it's music made from samples.
posted by dydecker at 8:21 AM on March 4, 2009

Oh no, Potomac Avenue, I do have a little bit of an understanding of how music works. What I'm wondering, though, is whether my knowledge of how music works is making it less mystifying to me.

Consider the example you mentioned - #7, Just A Lady - (in fact, that is pretty cool, and I hadn't made it that far into the clips, thanks for pointing me to it. Nice vibe.) I can see that nobody needed to "write" that... anyone with a decent knowledge of music and theory would be able to take that singer's improvised melody and devise a chord structure to put underneath it. Once you've done that, as filthy light thief mentions, the next step is to go crate-digging on YouTube for performances that match. In a way, writing isn't what's featured here, it's accompaniment and arranging from disparate sources - really no different than a Fatboy Slim album from 1996 or, indeed, what Grandmaster Flash developed decades ago - but in this case including the borrowed interest of the voyeurism of YouTube. Oh, and the inclusion of those giant wind chimes. Neat.

It is pretty cool, though I was more blown away by Lasse's "Amateur"... perhaps because seeing that video really DID give me that Grandmaster Flash-in-the-park feeling of "Holy crap, ANYTHING is possible in the world today!"
posted by scrowdid at 8:22 AM on March 4, 2009

This makes me happy to be alive.
posted by empath at 8:31 AM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

This is one of the 10 best MeFi posts I've ever seen.
Yes. This. Maybe top 1.

If you had source videos for a Four Tet, Rjd2, or DJ Shadow song, it would probably look similar.
Yes. This, too. I've often listened to Amon Tobin wishing I could see the "scoring sessions", imagining him watching TV late at night and jumping up like "WHOA I have to have this incidental music!!" and running over to his sampler to capture it.

As someone who makes sample-based music
As someone who has focused entirely on notation and composition with synthesizers for 20 years, I'm sort of kicking myself for not getting heavier into sampling and textures. People like this make me want to become someone who makes sample-based music. Amazing, mindblowing inspiration.
posted by jake at 8:33 AM on March 4, 2009

Ok, I take back what I said about not being able to break out the YT clips. I can understand the logic that he appropriated other folks YT's, and he links their URLs, so he'd rather you go get them from their source rather then getting them from his mix.

And if you click "get playlist", he literally gives you mp3 versions of all 7 tracks:

The mother of all funk chords
This is what it became
Babylon Band
I am new
Wait for me
Just a lady

Or again, just deconstruct the playlist to get them. His "actual band" stuff seems quite great as well but I haven't listened to the whole CD. Such good stuff!
posted by cavalier at 8:35 AM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Lawd-ahmighty, , his self-titled Kutiman album is also just immensely awesome so far...of course, I am a sucker for Afro-beat (I'm still waiting for someone to make some rave tracks out of some of the more complex mbalax beats out of Senegal), and I also of course assumed his name was a tribute to Fela Kuti, but no....Kutiel is is real name. I wish there was a way to buy the album directly from him and not through iTunes....
posted by piedrasyluz at 8:44 AM on March 4, 2009

Wow, this is excellent.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:49 AM on March 4, 2009

Coolest thing I've seen in a while. Wow.
posted by cosmac at 8:57 AM on March 4, 2009

Thanks, Happy Dave and scrowdid - I was thinking of Lasse's "Amateur" (referencing Michel Gondry's "Drumb and Drumber"). I'm impressed, but because of how it was all put together, not just the music. I found "The mother of all funk chords" to get overly dense at times, making it hard to discern the parts. Maybe it'll all improve upon listening to the MP3s (thanks cavalier).

To be a nit-picker of terminology: I agree with the current wiki definition of mashup (music): a song or composition created by blending two or more songs, usually by overlaying the vocal track of one song seamlessly over the music track of another. To me, the mashup keeps some notable element or sound of the original, often leaning towards the Song A + Song B = Song C structure. What was being done here is more along the lines of hip hop production (the idea of this style of production being limited to hip hop is misleading), definitely akin to The Avalanches diverse sampling.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:58 AM on March 4, 2009

You can get it through emusic.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:02 AM on March 4, 2009

(I'm still waiting for someone to make some rave tracks out of some of the more complex mbalax beats out of Senegal

Senegal flavoured techno
posted by dydecker at 9:12 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

scrowdid: I can see that nobody needed to "write" that... anyone with a decent knowledge of music and theory would be able to take that singer's improvised melody and devise a chord structure to put underneath it. Once you've done that, as filthy light thief mentions, the next step is to go crate-digging on YouTube for performances that match

Yes and nobody needed to "write" Bizet's L'Arlesienne either, it's just a bunch of folk dances strung together. And Copland was a plagiarist. You really think "anyone" can synthesize bits of melody and rhythm into songs? Cuz I know many people who couldn't even begin to do that, and I'm talking about musicians.

I'm not saying you have to agree it's great music, maybe it isn't. But it is a significant step forward in finding a new way for a composer to adopt elements of extant sound into a unique creation, and acting like the video element is unimportant is wrongheaded. It's precisely the fact of this being from extant VIDEO with accompanying images of amateur musicians making original music that make it so different from Girltalk or Negativeland. The songs themselves are cool, but it's almost a new medium-- a symphony of the zeitgeist.

Not that you were running it down, I know you said you liked it. I just wanted to dispute your "meh" on the grounds of "see it before old shit."

Oh, and filthy light thief, I agree about the first video--on repeated watches, it's just virtuosity. The rest are way more amazing, because of the complex subtlety of the sampling rather than kitchen sink soloing.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:26 AM on March 4, 2009

Yeah, dydecker, not so much - that's definitely West African flavored, but I'm looking more for the mbalax sound typical of Youssou N'Dour's music, Omar Pene, Thione Seck, and Lemzo Diamono...even Doudou N'Diaye Rose...it's a very particular rhythm not found in any of the tracks you linked to...I like, but not specifically what I am looking for.

And unfortunately even the tracks Youssou N'Dour releases in the West are very very different from what you find in any of the stalls in Marché Sandaga in Dakar. The real mbalax sound is much more raw than the over-produced albums put out by Sterns, Putumayo, et al..

Maybe it's a rhythm that doesn't particularly lend itself to a techno treatment...
posted by piedrasyluz at 9:29 AM on March 4, 2009

This just made me fall in love with MetaFilter and the Internet all over again. Thank you!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:31 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is awesome, but the YouTube videos seem crazy draggy and out of synch. Is there something I can do to rectify that?
posted by Shepherd at 9:34 AM on March 4, 2009

- piedrasyluz, please provide a link to the particular rhythm you are looking for (I actually collect African/techno hybrid records. I may have something for you)
posted by dydecker at 9:35 AM on March 4, 2009

Wow. Just... Wow. Thanks for this, Silky Slim.
posted by sveskemus at 9:42 AM on March 4, 2009

Theory: when a MetaFilter post's ratio of favourites to comments approaches or exceeds 1:1, that's usually a good indicator that it's an awesome post.

Can someone with infodump manipulation skills check this for me? Ta.
posted by flashboy at 9:56 AM on March 4, 2009

Normally I abhor mashups but this was just stunning. Favorited for sure.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:59 AM on March 4, 2009

Sure thing dydecker - here's a link to a mostly stripped-down version of the basic mbalax rhythm from Omar Pene.

Of course, there are multiple variations on the mbalax sound, but that's as good a taste as any. One of these days I'll put together a post on how the mbalax style evolved from the days when traditional Senegalese musicians got jobs playing in Cuban-style bands for French colonials in hotels in Dakar in the 50s and 60s. Some of my most favorite musical experiences were had at Club Thiossane in Dakar during the year I studied abroad there. Unfortunately, most of my live recordings, and my entire record collection was stolen out of my car in NYC in 1996. Awful awful day, that.
posted by piedrasyluz at 10:01 AM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I like.
posted by monospace at 10:02 AM on March 4, 2009

i love it when i see something new.
posted by saul wright at 10:07 AM on March 4, 2009

Thank you so much, Silky Slim. I'm totally unschooled in all this, but this makes me happy in hard-to-describe ways. Thank you!

Also, what SteelyDuran said.
posted by stumbling at 10:09 AM on March 4, 2009

Potomac Avenue: and acting like the video element is unimportant is wrongheaded.

Well, I suppose I didn't mean to downgrade that aspect so much - I mean, it was chiefly the YouTube voyeurism that's what made this interesting - but the technique of jumpcut editing of sounds on raw video has already blown me away in things like Amateur and even Pancakes!, so that wasn't new to me as a compositional tool, and neither is sampling of existing audio to create a novel musical arrangement. Maybe that's why I didn't quite see why people were so excited about this... but as a "symphony of the zeitgeist", as you say, it really does hit the bullseye of the YouTube phenomenon, social networking in general, the championing of amateurism, the DIY ethic, and revolution of technonerdosity that's happening right now.
posted by scrowdid at 10:13 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

oh. oh my. halleyoutubeya!
posted by ericbop at 10:24 AM on March 4, 2009

cavalier/Mach5: it mimics the YouTube player, but it's a separate page with its own discreet .flv's.
posted by progosk at 10:25 AM on March 4, 2009

Wow holy crap, looking at half of the source youtubes, they have anywhere from 1,200 to only 89(!) views? And he found them and collected them and... wow, what an effort.
posted by cavalier at 10:28 AM on March 4, 2009

Two final points about this before I finally start working today and stop obsessing about it:

1. So many of these beats and analog instruments sound good because they were cheaply recorded with small ambient mics in rough rooms rather than professionals with racks of compressors and isolation booths. So they sound warm and distorted and nuanced rather than clipped and clean and soulless. Crate-diggers have totally plundered the era before digital recording, this could open up a whole new universe of sampling opportunities.

2. He didn't change the pitch on anything, as far as I can tell from the original videos I've watched so far. Which means had to find stuff that was all in the same key.

3. Holy shit.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:48 AM on March 4, 2009 [9 favorites]

(as an aside, Slim: how did you come by this? Seems not to have been mentioned anywhere else before your post... Nice to see stuff premiered here.)
posted by progosk at 10:54 AM on March 4, 2009

This is pure, unadulterated JOY! Thank you so, so much. Incredible!
posted by lysistrata at 10:56 AM on March 4, 2009

The more I watch the more blown away I am. I can't even conceive of what it's like to have the sort of imagination, persistence and talent it takes to produce something like this. Seriously mind-blowing stuff.
posted by lysistrata at 11:08 AM on March 4, 2009

Ahh, according to his MySpace page he's worked in Jamaica with some Marleys. And it shows. I just love that Finnish/Swedish dread!
posted by Duug at 11:20 AM on March 4, 2009

"*looks for better word than creation*"

posted by 3FLryan at 11:51 AM on March 4, 2009

His brain works differently than mine.

I understand the fundamentals of what he has done here, but I honestly can't even begin to comprehend how someone can take all these completely disparate elements and put them together into... that.

It really is nothing sort of astonishing.
posted by quin at 12:07 PM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Came back to this in the morning, and had to close out the tab entirely for fear that I will just sit here and watch it over and over again all day. I love when the not-explicitly-music clips come in - some dude hooking jumper cables to the old siren; the hippy with giant chimes; playing with robots; and oh sweet mother of god the lady singing to her baby in front of her webcam brought tears to my eyes.
posted by freebird at 12:22 PM on March 4, 2009

I find it honestly moving to see and hear all this raw creative material, made for all kinds of different reasons but with an intent to connect and project passion/skills/ideas to the rest of the world, then get totally re-contextualized by Kutiman, who comes along and literally connects them with each other, and with us.
posted by lukievan at 12:36 PM on March 4, 2009

As someone very interested in sampling, let me just say holy shit.

This is some impressive stuff. I came across the link just a little earlier and watched it straight through, only pausing twice: Once to send it to all my friends, and once to send it to all my friends again. no joke.

I'm going to go watch it again. This is an amazingly great piece of work creatively, technologically, and musically. I'm stunned.
posted by flatluigi at 12:39 PM on March 4, 2009

posted by humannaire at 12:44 PM on March 4, 2009

Thinking about it, i imagine he started from the vocal tracks, then thought out which instruments he wanted for the orchestration and then searched for clips of them (potentially) in the right key. Last but not least, how best to edit the videos - though it might have made some of the editing easier (a lot easier) I don't think he went so far as to single out notes/clips so as to then be able just to play the from a sampler...
Still - astonishing feat all round. Would be great to see reactions from the all the sampled people.
posted by progosk at 12:49 PM on March 4, 2009

He claims this is the 1st movement, which means there is more to come. I cannot wait, this is wonderful stuff. What a tremendously talented fellow. I love people right now. Get it while it lasts, it'll probably be gone by sundown.
posted by msali at 1:25 PM on March 4, 2009

What I'd really love is if he got enough of these people together to perform one of these tracks live. That would be amazing and I would pay to see it.
posted by mai at 1:35 PM on March 4, 2009

He claims this is the 1st movement

erm, if you're referring to that line of text on the site just under the main title, I think that's just left over from the youtube page of one of the samples he used...
posted by progosk at 1:52 PM on March 4, 2009

Love it. Brilliant.
posted by defenestration at 1:59 PM on March 4, 2009

I'm watching and listening but despite that I know that this is impossible.
posted by tellurian at 2:26 PM on March 4, 2009

Best of the Web. Ever.
posted by kaspen at 2:33 PM on March 4, 2009

Is there any such thing as a permanent sidebar? There oughtta be.

Also, I'd like to favorite this about a dozen times.
posted by ZakDaddy at 2:38 PM on March 4, 2009

You killed it! Mefried it. You're like that guy Lennie in Of Mice and Men aren't you?

by the way this is good, but not exactly the second coming.
posted by leibniz at 3:01 PM on March 4, 2009

Thank you for visiting our site! Unfortunately our extreme popularity today has used up our bandwidth at the moment. Please come back tomorrow to check out our amazing website, we should be ready for you then!

Aw crap I knew I shouldnt have watched it that 847th time.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:06 PM on March 4, 2009

Quick, someone host this beautiful stuff for the dude pronto. I accidentally reloaded and now I can watchlisten anymore! Man. So fantastic.

Which brings to mind the question, if I absolutely love the sound of all of this, what other groups would you suggest I look for? I have all kinds of weird music about but apparently I have some vastly neglected genres.
posted by Stunt at 3:52 PM on March 4, 2009

Stunt: This stuff is fairly uncommon, but Alex H is the closest I can think of off the top of my head.
posted by flatluigi at 4:14 PM on March 4, 2009

The site still (again?) works for me.

To further fizzle the splendor: here's what (I imagine) he did (and what you can see him doing in the "About" track): searched for interesting elements: funky drums, piano, harp, flute, trumpet, anything. Similar to mic in track, if you know what to look for, and you have patience, you can find anything. Most people don't go looking for someone jamming on the bass just for fun. Some get lucky and are picked as the new lead singer of a well-known band, but most only get a few views.

The difference between Kutiman's method and cratedigging for the perfect samples: on Youtube, you can actually search for the instruments you want. Think of it as a flea market of samples and loops. If someone's artistic and crafty enough, they make something amazing. I agree with Potomic Avenue, the non-professional / nuanced sound made the whole thing more personal. Pitch-perfect loops and expertly crafted beats can sound wrong somehow. I wouldn't be surprised if others copied this method.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:32 PM on March 4, 2009

I love when the not-explicitly-music clips come in - some dude hooking jumper cables to the old siren

The name on the logo plate on the siren is "Free Rolling" so it fits the song in a couple of ways. This tune also has the guy playing the arcade button and at one point in the song, every time he hits the button one of the other frames switches on or off. With I'm a Lady he keeps the intimate feel of the song with long shots of the singer throughout. The conversation among "collaborators" in The Mother of All Funk Chords, and the Asian kid out of breath at the end of the solo. He puts a lot of work into the visual part, which makes it all that more impressive. And I can't see how others don't copy it. This stuff is inspirational. I'm never going to watch YouTube the same way again.
posted by effwerd at 4:59 PM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Quick, someone host this beautiful stuff for the dude pronto.

posted by cosmac at 6:27 PM on March 4, 2009

Some get lucky

OMFG that's now my favorite example of how FUCKED UP the fair-use/IP/copyright/etc world has become. It's a great story right - Journey picks a fan as new lead singer based on his YouTube video - and I go to click the link IN THE STORY which is the FUCKING VIDEO they're talking about that made this magic happen - AND IT'S REMOVED FOR COPYRIGHT VIOLATION. Like, that wonderful story couldn't happen now.

I am really sorry to use caps like that, I rarely do. But it just totally blows me away how messed up that is, and I mention it here not only because the comment above led me to it. I mention it because this Kutiman stuff has really made my week, it's wonderful. And if we lose out to the bastards, this sort of thing will become more and more impossible to do. This post has reminded me of some of the incredible potential of all our shiny new technologies, and the importance of the struggle to keep them from getting FUCKED by the tired ignorant bastards who can't keep up. It's really not just BoingBoing and Stallman noise - it's really important that this sort of thing can be created, and I've become far too complacent and jaded about the issues.

Oh and thanks again for the wonderful post :)
posted by freebird at 8:46 PM on March 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

The moron who wrote the favoriting system didn't think to allow repeats, so:


I love how in Babylon Band he takes what looks like a slow-witted no-skills drummer and transforms him into a demon behind the drumkit.
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:02 PM on March 4, 2009

(Yes, I flagged this as fantastic too.)
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:08 PM on March 4, 2009

Every time I see things like this, they make me feel like another useless human being :)

Great post. "WAIT FOR ME" is my favorite track.
posted by Khazk at 10:03 PM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Some dude has now re-uploaded them to YouTube. I wonder if he'll get a takedown notice...?
posted by flashboy at 12:25 AM on March 5, 2009

Thanks flashboy! They're great tracks and I appreciate the mp3s a whole bunch, but the effort he put into the visual really makes them complete by watching them.
posted by cavalier at 5:04 AM on March 5, 2009

Flashboy, wouldn't that just be "uploaded"? His original versions on the Thru-you web site were not ever on YouTube, only the "parts" were. I think that was intentional on his part, because he probably didn't want YouTube to be able to exert any control over the end product, via some nefarious interpretation of their Terms of Service. He also thereby prevents any of the artists from contacting YouTube and requesting that the songs be "taken down" due to a copyright claim on the part of any of the artists in the clips, whose respective parts are de facto copyrighted by mere publication on a site like YouTube (well, not for the tiniest one note samples, or samples where the original has been so extensively modified as to be unrecognizable, but definitely the hooks and some of the riffs that are more lengthy/recognizable). Of course, Kutiman will probably oblige any artist who no longer wants to be part of his experiment, but it's too late now - we've all ripped/downloaded/shared these tracks all over the world, and Kutiman can't take them back. They are now immortal. Of course, most of the artists will probably be grateful for the free publicity, but what if "I'm New" or "Just a Lady" or any of the other tracks actually charts? (and what meaning does "charting" have anyway when the these songs have already been listened too millions of times around the world? who cares how many "copies" were sold in record stores?)
posted by piedrasyluz at 5:37 AM on March 5, 2009

Damn that's good. I like the moments in the "Someday" video where he has the buttons and faders on the old school electronic organ move "by themselves". A very simple editing trick no doubt, but strangely compelling for some reason. I also love the little girl striking the gong "on cue". There's a way that this type of remixing of personal, amateur video makes it seem like the people who created the videos are actually involved in the creation somehow. I love it.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:22 AM on March 5, 2009

Some dude has now re-uploaded them to YouTube.

I wasn't as impressed with Kutiman's new Gold Bond Medicated Powder project.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:18 AM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Holy shit, I'm only one minute into it and now I know why Youtube was invented. Thank you for posting this.
posted by not_on_display at 1:43 PM on March 5, 2009

Sasha Frere-Jones approves (and links to this thread).
posted by Horace Rumpole at 2:35 PM on March 5, 2009

Not to pile on here, but this is why metafilter is the grand slam. AAA+++++ WOULD FOLLOW LINK AGAIN
posted by antonymous at 5:29 PM on March 5, 2009

A friend just sent me a link to "I'm new" because one of my videos is in it! It's the oscilloscope. No sound, just a bit of eye candy.

Anyway, this stuff is truly inspiring. It made me download a flash video capture plugin for firefox-- to snatch these vids before they get taken down for whatever reason, but also to be able to attempt to do this myself!!
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 8:01 PM on March 5, 2009

I'm pretty surprised only one person has brought up EBN so far. I thought they got more Mefite love.

They were doing pretty much this exact thing 15 years ago, except with more elaborate video effects and snarky social commentary, and the source they mined was cable TV. See their video 3-7-8.
posted by neckro23 at 10:13 PM on March 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

To a t, neckro23 (thx, I'd never heard of them).
kottke (via sfj) also mentions Christian Marclay's Video Quartet.
posted by progosk at 11:16 PM on March 5, 2009

(also, incidentally, the earlier mefi post you linked to provides an interesting looking-glass for mefi's slow-maturing, inescapable fascination with YouTube. In case it's not been done yet, this looks to be about the right time for a Mefi vs YouTube meta-history post...)
posted by progosk at 11:28 PM on March 5, 2009

Thanks for all the props on the post! You're very welcome.
De-cloaked lurkers: Welcome aboard!
And thanks to all the enthusiastic commenters.
I've been listening to Thru-You this non-stop since Tuesday morning, and keep finding new ways to love it. For instance, track 7, Just a Lady, is a hidden gem among its flashier brethren.
My theory: If The Grey Album was enough to launch Danger Mouse to the world's A-list of producers, this is surely enough to do the same for Kuti, no?
posted by Silky Slim at 3:31 AM on March 6, 2009

I'm surprised no one has really nailed yet what makes this so compelling.

The technique is of course very impressive, and the tunes themselves competent (nothing too exceptional but with a definite heart, and good grooves). But what is really special is of course the context, which the listener and the composer are providing in their heads (not the performers). The sense that hundreds of people all over the world are coming together to make music, which in the extended sense of the internet is sort of true, but watching these videos enables you to experience that: the feeling of social bonding (what Adorno calls "annihilating the contingencies of the listener’s private existence”) that is pretty unique even in live performance and which many people wrote off (like Adorno and Benjamin) as utterly undermined by recorded music, let alone the completely atomized audience of the internet.

This aesthetic feeling is intensified by that fact that most of these performances are by amateurs and often completely improvised. This is what gives the music a really revolutionary feel, and it's really quite moving sometimes. It's great to follow up the credits and see the unwitting performers just now finding out about it.

I'm not sure he'll be able to sell this though.
posted by leibniz at 4:40 AM on March 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

Danger Mouse never sold The Grey Album, either.
posted by Silky Slim at 4:59 AM on March 6, 2009

Someone please fix this guy's site. I really want to send all my friends to it so I can be the coolest guy in the universe to them.

Just kidding, I already am the coolest guy in the universe to all my friends.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:40 AM on March 6, 2009

To add to my initial comment, I finally watched this full-through last night, and at a couple of points, had actual tears in my eyes, this was just so beautifully done. One of the best things I've clicked on in the past couple of years.
posted by not_on_display at 11:35 AM on March 6, 2009

Of all mash-up type things, this would probably be one of the easier ones to get rights cleared. Unless someone was singing the song of another (requiring clearance for writing of the original songs), everything else is so hacked and chopped that he'd only need clearance from the YouTube musicians. And who of these many wouldn't love to have their music, even their goofy drumming (he gets a lot more serious later in the clip) as part of something greater?

Oddly, only one video is down. And the links back to the original content is still intact, which is half the fun after you've seen the Kutiman vids a few times.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:11 PM on March 6, 2009

here's an unofficial (but kutiman-blessed) mirror of the mp3's and the youtubed videos.
posted by progosk at 3:40 PM on March 6, 2009

I don't know that I can say much that hasn't already been said, but yes, this is a beautiful thing and so hugely inspirational.
posted by O9scar at 11:43 PM on March 6, 2009

Though the site is back up, all the videos are now also available (in best quality) via kutiman's own youtube channel.
posted by progosk at 12:28 PM on March 7, 2009

progosk: Though the site is back up, all the videos are now also available (in best quality) via kutiman's own youtube channel.

For reference:

1) Mother of All Funk Chords
2) This Is What It Became
3) I'm New
4) Babylon Band
5) Someday
6) Wait For Me
7) Just a Lady

8) About
posted by flatluigi at 3:38 PM on March 7, 2009

Phenom - utter dedicated genius. Thank you Kutiman.
posted by noahv at 6:00 PM on March 7, 2009

Silky Slim is searching for singer2...
posted by progosk at 12:48 AM on March 8, 2009

That's not me, but good luck.
posted by Silky Slim at 6:21 AM on March 8, 2009

oops, sorry y
posted by progosk at 6:53 AM on March 8, 2009

Researching thruYOU
posted by flatluigi at 9:59 AM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

This makes the whole world seem more real somehow. It's all music. Just waiting for someone to put it together in the right order.
posted by ook at 10:59 AM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


The sheer number of sources for each video -- 15-20 per track, it looks like -- is astonishing. Kutiman deserves all the success in the world.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:40 AM on March 10, 2009

[This is good]

So good I came here to post it and happily found it here already.
posted by loquacious at 11:37 PM on March 10, 2009

In your face, Andrew Keen!
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:15 AM on March 11, 2009

We're far enough down the page here for me to self-link probably, thanks to metafilter I made a long rambling blog post about this last week in which many metaphors were grossly distended and I quoted myself liberally from this thread.

Last night I was at a poker game downtown and this stoner arab guy was ranting about something and trying to get the black lawyer who ran the game and a grimy cab driver player to check something out on his laptop. I was concentrating on a hand and the sounds of Babylon Band came over my shoulder and I turned to watch all three of these disparate and musically unhip guys gathered around the screen with their jaws wide open. Glory.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:41 PM on March 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I love the idea, and the tracks have a kind of Wild Bunch sound I've been missing for a while now. I will be investigating Kutiman.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:47 AM on March 12, 2009

This will never, ever happen: all of these people on a stage performing these songs live.

But I can dream.
posted by davejay at 1:50 PM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

how the hell did I miss this earlier?
posted by juv3nal at 1:10 AM on March 13, 2009

I somehow missed this post and started a new one here. Check it out.
posted by konig at 8:15 AM on March 13, 2009

Late to the game. FUCKING STUNNED. My Spring break will be roughly divided into thirds: sleeping, doing research for my paper, watching ThruYou over and over and over and over...
posted by cthuljew at 5:44 AM on March 15, 2009

Pretty awesome work there.
posted by klausness at 5:01 AM on March 16, 2009

It's kind of dumb, but I've had that nagging little feeling like it's the end of the world. Or if not the world then the end of something big, hard to tell what exactly (even though there's worldwideeconomiccollapsewardevastationdrones&predatorsfightingwars) but this makes me feel like whatever the end is, this is a glimpse of the other side. Thank you.
posted by frances1972 at 9:59 AM on March 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is awesomeness in the extreme. I also heard about this and ran to FPP it, but here it is! Good! I'm trying to figure out how to write about this for school... it's a compelling foil to the YouTube symphony!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:42 PM on March 17, 2009

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