The American professor Pierce Freelon, the young journalist and Congolese filmmaker Gaïus Kowene and the American Dj Stephen Levittin aka Apple Juice Kid, just after the opening gala of the 7th edition of Salaam Kivu Internationa Film Festival (SKIFF 2012) in Goma, DRC. This festival is held by the center for art creativity and cultural exchange Yolé!Africa. During this festival, some youth were trained by these professionals (from the University of North Carolina, USA) and formed Congo Beat Making Lab. It was the begining of ARTVSM in DRC.

ARTVSM merges the worlds of art and activism. Founded by producer/DJ Apple Juice Kid (Stephen Levitin) and emcee/professor Pierce Freelon, the latest ARTVSM project built a sustainable music studio, called a Beat Making Lab, in the Democratic Republic of Congo in collaboration with Yole!Africa. ARTVSM is in the process of developing an open source beat making software for implementation in similar Beat Making Labs across Africa and the global south. The goal is to design the software for flexible, international use, in a way that encourages collaboration and builds community.

Apple Juice Kid is a producer, DJ and drummer. An eight-time beat battle champion, he has produced singles for Wale, Mos Def, Camp Lo, and MC Lyte. He has been a guest DJ on Mark Ronson’s East Village Radio, performed as a drummer with The Foreign Exchange and The Jungle Brothers and been profiled on sites such as Nahright, NME and Pitchfork.

Pierce Freelon is a musician, professor, and artivist with a passion for creativity and community. He is front man of the genre-bending The Beast, hailed as a « natural, engaging blend of jazz and hip hop, » by Jazz Times Magazine. He has taught music, African American studies and political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina Central University, and has performed, lectured and collaborated internationally.

Why we do this?

Because music changes everything – it transforms people and communities. We want to connect humanity and foster collaborations across borders and throughout the world. As a music producer(Stephen Levitin aka Apple Juice Kid) and MC(Pierce Freelon), we love to create music, teach music and dream of ways to expand to share that ability with people, internationally. So we started a Beat Making Lab – to create a sustainable impact in communities, co-creating and exchanging beats and rhymes to have social and cultural impact. We want to promote peace, healing through music and collaboration.   Our company ARTVSM’s philosophy is to combine art and activism by any medium necessary. It’s truly a universal and powerful language – the pulse of the human spirit – and can be a primary catalysts for positive change.


Our first project:  Beat Making Lab: Congo

To get kids in Burundi sending beats and writing rhymes to kids in Afghanistan.

Hip Hop and Electronic music is now what is popular among the youth in countries accross the world.  Just like kids wanted to play guitar and sing for decades, now they want to make beats and rap.  Everywhere we go, the youth want to be able to express themselves recording a beat and their voice.  But they can’t.  The skills are not widely taught, and the software is too expensive or complex.

The beat making lab is important to level the playing field and have communities around the world with access and skills to make and produce modern music.  The development of open source beat making software will further this goal by give everyone access to the tools to make beats.  It leaves a sustainable lab for creativity for the youth to express themselves, and to be entrepenurual in the modern music landscape.  By doing this we will have much more cultural exchange to bring healing and peace to communities of different language and background, musically and artistically connecting in organic ways.