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L.A. Beat

Youth drop their own beats with Drop’n Beat youth drop in program

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 Damon Van Ginneken has been helping Lethbridge youth drop their own beats for about a year and a half with his programDamon Van Ginneken examines sound waves from one of Shaqiel Good Rider‘s raps during the Drop’n Beats program at the McMan Community Services. photo by Richard Amery “Drop’n’ Beats.”

“Basically it’s a drop in program for youth age 12-19,” Van Ginneken described adding it is designed for youth who are interested in songwriting and music rather than sports.
“It’s totally free of charge,” he continued.

Drop’n’ Beats alternates between the Boys and Girls Club on the second and fourth Thursday of every month and the Medicine Tree (Sik-ooh-kotoki) Friendship Centre on the first and third Thursday of every month.

 He brings his portable studio to the two locations and works with youth to professionally record their songs. He will soon be expanding to the R.I. Baker Middle School in Coaldale.

“It takes about a half hour to set everything up then we’re good to go,” he said adding they can complete a song in a day and he gets lots of youth who return regularly.

While he comes from a hip hop background, he noted the youth involved are interested in a variety of genres of music.
“The whole idea is to promote youth empowerment through creative expression,” Van Ginneken continued adding he was a touring musician with hip hop crew Red Nation before quitting the business to become a youth worker and program director. In addition to teaching youth about the engineering and recording process, he also offers music mentorship and will also help them get performing experience by arranging opening gigs with touring musicians for his protégés.

He was involved in a similar program called Prairie Roots run by an organization called Common Weal when he was a youth in Regina and decided to pay it forward in Lethbridge beginning June 2011.
“I was just talking over the idea with my  supervisor (at McMan Community Services) I never expected to get sponsorship for it,” he said adding he receives financial support from the provincial government as well as the United Way and The Community Foundation of Southern Alberta.

 He has also received a lot of support from  the Lethbridge community organization including The Boys and Girls Club of Lethbridge; the Sik-Ooh-Kotoki Friendship Centre; Aboriginal Council of Lethbridge; OUTreach Southern Alberta; Lethbridge Family Services and Lethbridge Regional Police.

They receive funding from The Government of Alberta, United Way of Lethbridge and South Western Alberta and Community Foundations of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta.

He noted as of April 1 this year,  approximately 70 youth got involved with the program and the numbers are growing.
“ We have a lot of  hip hop and some country,” he said.

“I was just chilling at the Friendship centre and my little brother told me there was this guy recording music,” said Shaqiel Good Rider,17, who has been part of the program for the past seven months. He first became interested in rapping at age 10.
“But I was just writing then,” he continued.
“I just like getting myself heard,” he said.Shaqiel Good Rider raps from a piece of paper posted in front of him.  Photo By Richard Amery

The first step in the program is an informal discussion about what direction the musician wishes to go.
“Then they decide if they want to work with me,” he said.

“It’s a pretty open, collaborative experience,” he continued.
“It’s a positive alternative to just hanging out on the streets,” he continued adding Drop’n Beats is also  an alternative to most youth programs which predominately concentrate on sports.

 “ A lot of recreational programs are sports related. I love sports. I’m an athletic guy, but this is an alternative to sports,” he said.
He noted participants come from all walks of life, race and socio-economic backgrounds. His most successful protégé is a rapper who immigrated from the Sudan.  He has been pleasantly surprised by not only the community support for the program, but also the amount of talent coming through the program.

“I’d like to release a compilation CD off some of the best songs,” he said adding he is in the process of choosing the best tracks and plans to release the CD in March followed by a CD release party.
He is releasing some of the songs on his website

 A version of this story appears in the Jan. 9, 2013 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times
— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 09 January 2013 11:11 )  
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