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A new way of digesting folk music - As Michael Sean Harris fuses traditional songs with electronic music

Published:Thursday | November 9, 2017 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small
Michael Sean Harris
The Jamaican Folk Singers in concert

Michael Sean Harris is breaking the moulds of music making, by deconstructing folks songs that Jamaicans know and love, and introducing new technologies into the recording process to ultimately construe the old familiar sound into one that the younger generation can easily digest.

"It is the re-imagining and fusing of folk music with electronic music," Harris said.

The assistant director of the School of Music at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, calls this new way of production, Folksbeats and Blipspeak.

"So far, I've used the songs and come up with new chord progressions and beats for them. I have completely mangled samples of field recordings and made new music," Harris told, The Gleaner.

But it's not a new music form, at least that's not the ultimate endgame.

"The intention is really to show that folk music, both just as music and also as a resource for new creations, is a very vibrant and viable one. I also hoped to reframe the music in a more modern context for appreciation, consumption and even consideration by a younger audience. If a new genre is created in the process ... cool!"

Harris believes that many people are unaware of the many folk forms and folk songs that exist, despite the country's small size.

"I have used the traditional rhythms with new synthetic textures- the possibilities really are endless. I even did a TEDx talk on it while in Valencia," the musician told, The Gleaner.

Folkbeats and Blipspeak began in 2014, as Harris worked on his Master's thesis while studying at Berklee in Spain. The project includes recordings as well as live performances using technology like a laptop and Ableton Live (music software).

Harris recently started to release the recordings for digital download and on YouTube, the first being, Dis Long Time Gyal.

Soon, Harris will release his folksbeat and blipspeak version of, Bad Maddanlaw.