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Fred Graves

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The World's First Hip-Hop Microfinance Music Video

Posted: 08/17/10 11:37 PM ET

When I was approached by our marketing department to put together a song for the Members Project, I was stoked. Hip hop has been a passion of mine for years, and microfinance is rapidly becoming my foremost interest. I was excited about the chance to combine the two into one creative project. Upon receiving the assignment, I began my usual artistic routine of composing the lyrics in my decrepit rhyme book on my bus ride to and from work.

The biggest challenge was that I had no instrumental with which to write the song. Enter Michael Ehrhart (a.k.a. Agent M), a friend of mine since high school who composes beats in his free time. I contacted him and no more than two days following our conversation I had myself a "banger" track to write to. Even more impressive was that he composed the beat around a sample he took from a song performed by a Ghanaian singing group recorded by field workers on Grameen Foundation's MoTech project.

We recorded the song in a studio at Western Washington University where Mike is fulfilling his undergraduate degree. We knocked out the recording with relative ease and even managed to record the vocals for some other projects we are working on as well. With the song composed, the next step was to film the music video. Enter Scott Everett, a coworker of mine at the Grameen Technology Center. It may come as a surprise to the viewers of the video, but this was actually Scott's first ever endeavor at filming. Despite his years of experience with photography, he had yet to branch out into the world of motion picture. However, not only was Scott able to adapt quickly to the unfamiliar task, his creativity behind the lens added a whole new dimension to the video.

Next we lay the vocals over the beat and edited the footage. We integrated profiles of several Grameen Foundation borrowers to really bring home the message of who we are working for. Mike was great to collaborate with, and as a result the video turned out even better than I had anticipated. So with the draft of the video complete we put it up on YouTube for a trial release within Grameen Foundation. I credit the feedback I received from my coworkers for truly taking the video to the next level. They offered candid feedback that I took to heart, and as a result we cleared both the song and video of several blemishes that would have certainly detracted from the video's impact.

I would like to thank Mike, Scott and my friends at Grameen Technology Center for providing me with the assistance critical to making this project a success. So check out one of the select few microfinance music videos in circulation and enjoy!