Flood the soundscape African

If the internet is the democratizing force that it is advertised to be, why shouldn’t you be able to contribute?

Image via Simon Berry Flickr

Most of the Digital Archive features that have been posted so far offer some kind of option for users to contribute their own materials. For example, last week’s feature on HipHopAfrican included directions for submitting music to Msia Kibona Clark’s class at Howard University. The Nigerian Nostalgia and the Nsibidi Institute are other projects that have participatory options. If you have materials that fit within the aims of these sites, you can submit and become part of the experience. Though not an intentional focus when this series began, over time I began to search out sites that would allow users to become part of the conversation. And why shouldn’t they? If the internet is the democratizing force that it is advertised to be, why shouldn’t you be able to contribute? This week takes that idea to the next level, with two projects that allow you to produce virtually unmediated content.

A few months ago, I saw an article on Wired about a project called Localingual. Built by David Ding, a former Microsoft software engineer, Localingual is an interactive map featuring recordings of voices from throughout the world. Launched in January this year, the site had logged 500,000 visits by the time the Wired piece was published online. Ding’s inspiration for Localingual came from his travels. When he was in Ukraine, he was struck by the possibilities of recording all of the different languages and dialects he was hearing and putting them online. Of course, he couldn’t possibly do all of this work on his own. Instead, the map does a lot of the work for him, allowing users to record their own voices in the language of their choices. There are obviously some short-comings with a process like this, such as users recording profanity or using fake accents, so Ding came up with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down system to help weed out the fakes. To add your own voice, open the map and click the country of your choice. (Just a heads up: the software only works on Android devices or desktops. The Apple iOS APIs prevent it from working on Apple devices.) A list of the languages recorded for that country thus far will load to the right of the map. Click through the thought bubbles to listen to all of the recordings that have been made thus far. If you want to add your own recording, click the microphone button, select the language the recording will be in and the gender of the speaker and choose whether the recording is of the name of a country, its capital or a phrase. Then write the phrase in the language you are speaking and its English equivalent and press record. It’s as simple as that.

Similar to Localingual, Soundcities is another interactive map presenting recordings of ambient sounds from cities around the globe. Originally, the map was home to sounds recorded by the artist Stanza, who would record sounds he encountered in cities he visited in his travels. Now it is a completely open platform, which means that anyone can submit sounds from their own cities. Unfortunately, there are only three African cities included in the project so far: Bamako, Cairo, and Dakar. But, like Localingual, you can change that! Below the list of sounds, click “add a new sound.” From there, you can create a username and add your city to the list of cities with sounds registered. A marker will be dropped onto the map that you drag to the location of your city. Click continue and then you can add your mp3 for the city of your choice, select the best mood/category for your sound click and submit.

So, post your content! Take your phones and record people’s voices, record the sounds you here. We have the ability to flood these sites with African content. Take the time and make the most of these resources. It’s your right and responsibility to do so.

Further Reading

A power crisis

Andre De Ruyter, the former CEO of Eskom, has presented himself as a simple hero trying to save South Africa’s struggling power utility against corrupt forces. But this racially charged narrative is ultimately self-serving.

Cinematic universality

Fatou Cissé’s directorial debut meditates on the uncertain fate and importance of Malian cinema amidst the growing dismissiveness towards the humanities across the world.

The meanings of Heath Streak

Zimbabwean cricketing legend Heath Streak’s career mirrors many of the unresolved tensions of race and class in Zimbabwe. Yet few white Zimbabwean sporting figures are able to stir interest and conversation across the nation’s many divides.


After winning Italy’s Serie A with Napoli, Victor Osimhen has cemented his claim to being Africa’s biggest footballing icon. But is the trend of individual stardom good for sports and politics?

The magic man

Chris Blackwell’s long-awaited autobiography shows him as a romantic rogue; a risk taker whose life compass has been an open mind and gift to hear and see slightly into the future.

How to think about colonialism

Contemporary approaches to the legacy of colonialism tend to narrowly emphasize political agency as the solution to Africa’s problems. But agency is configured through historically particular relations of which we are not sole authors.

More than just a flag

South Africa’s apartheid flag has been declared hate speech by a top court. But while courts are important and their judgments matter, racism is a long and internationally entrenched social phenomenon that cannot be undone via judicial processes.

Resistance is a continuous endeavor

For more than 75 years, Palestinians have organized for a liberated future. Today, as resistance against Israeli apartheid intensifies, unity and revolutionary optimism has become the main infrastructure of struggle.

Paradise forgotten

While there is much to mourn about the passing of legendary American singer and actor Harry Belafonte, we should hold a place for his bold statement-album against apartheid South Africa.