Let's be honest — we probably take our world of super-fast internet, cheap (or free) digital music, and uber-connected smartphones for granted. In West Africa, however, file sharing means something a lot more literal: sitting down with your friends and swapping files and music over the Bluetooth connection in your cell phone. Portland, Oregon native Christopher Kirkley spent time in West Africa observing this unique music and technological culture and recently discussed his role in sharing it outside of Africa with Motherboard. According to Kirkley, loads of self-produced songs are added to and played primarily through cell phones (often through the built-in speaker), shared with friends over Bluetooth, and then spread throughout the region.
Because of this, the artists behind much of the music listened to in West Africa is completely uncredited, with musicians receiving no compensation for their work despite wide distribution. However, Kirkley is seeking to change that by bringing that music home with him. A few years ago, he released Music from Saharan Cellphones through his Sahel Sounds website on cassette, but he's since tracked down the artists involved and has put together a proper digital release. You can stream the nine tracks, purchase a digital download for $3, or order a $12 LP — in all cases, 60 percent of the profits go to the original African artists.