5 awesome music/tech mash-ups from Cape Town

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They say that music is what keeps us alive, but for a bunch of really clever people it is just another way in which they make things a whole lot better. Mixing technology with music isn’t usually anybody’s first port of call, but at Break.Make.Create in Cape Town last weekend it’s exactly what they aimed to do.

The hardware hackathon tasked teams with creating musical prototypes that deconstruct, or reconstruct, the way we experience music. “Make a beat, break a beat, make an instrument or create a new genre, it’s a blurring of the lines between sharps and flats, zeros and ones,” Hellocomputer, the company behind Break.Make.Create (and also Joburg’s famous Tweeting badger), explained.

There was real money on the line too – the most inventive musical project could win up to R10 000 for its trouble.

Here are some of the winning musical hacks:

The Sound and the Fury

Take one part video game, three parts musical instruments and a healthy dose of ambition, and you end up with a video game where you have to fight of enemies by making sweet music in their faces. “In a world where music is a crime, you must fight the violence of the silence to save the music, and humanity. Your weapons include devastating drums, a killer keyboard and a harrowing harmonica,” they explained. Once you are done, the music you created is stored on an old tape cassette.


Based in Cape Town, Team Rocket turned one of the most iconic toys in history into a fully-functioning DJ table. By hacking, programming and testing the team took Lego blocks and tuned them to function just as a real DJ table would, complete with wub-wubs (Is that the technical term? – Ed) and everything. According to Hellocomputer, the team built midi switches into Lego blocks that enabled them to layer loops by building Lego sculptures.

Pump Up the Jam

Tune up your takkies! By embedding sneakers with a bunch of wires and sensors, and then incorporating the package with music samples, you get shoes that will let you create your own beats just by moving around. At least, you do if you know what you’re doing. “By simply dancing, the sneakers select from various music samples along with the sound playing from speakers in the sneaker tongue. They can continue to build on the samples by doing a series of dance moves and sneaker taps, until they’ve created their very own jam.”

8-bit Umbrella

How cool would it be if you heard music every time you stepped out in the pouring rain? Well, that is exactly with the purpose of the 8 bit Umbrella. Created by Alice Zappe and Julia Lager, “inside the umbrella they fitted 12 piezoelectric sensors connected to an Arduino microcontroller, which notes when each sensor is struck by a raindrop. As the raindrops strike the different sensors, they generate different bleepy sounds to create a lo-fi 8-bit symphony,” The Creators Project wrote.


While the name of this hack is a bit of a mouth full, it uses one of the most weirdest interesting instruments out there. The theremin is a musical instrument that makes use of two antennas and frequencies, which creates its eerie sounds. The ThereminKaraokeSystem uses the MusixMatch API to find lyrics and subtitles, and then ‘sings’ them by theremin-controlled VoiceSynthesis.

[Source – Hellocomputer]



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