Music from Saharan cellphones is a compilation of music collected from memory cards of cellular phones in the Saharan desert. In much of West Africa, cellphones are are used as all purpose multimedia devices. In lieu of personal computers and high speed internet, the knockoff cellphones house portable music collections, playback songs on tinny built in speakers, and swap files in a very literal peer to peer Bluetooth wireless transfer. The songs chosen for the compilation were some of the highlights – music that is immensely popular on the unofficial mp3/cellphone network from Abidjan to Bamako to Algiers, but have limited or no commercial release. They’re also songs that tend towards this new world of self production – Fruity Loops, home studios, synthesizers, and Autotune. In 2010, various versions of saharan cellphone music were released on cassette. Many of the songs were unlabeled, giving no insight to their mysterious origins. In the past year, the artists have been tracked down to collaborate on a commercial release. As such, 60% of the proceeds go directly to the artists.
In 2014 the Science Museum in London will open its brand new gallery, Information Age. The gallery will bring communication technologies and their users to life, beginning 200 years ago with the arrival of the electric telegraph and coming right up to the present day. Mobile phones have radically changed the ways we communicate, especially in developing countries where we have seen a ‘leap-frogging’ of technologies such as the landline telephone. In order to tell the very important stories about the impacts of mobile telephony in developing countries we chose to present a case study to our visitors. After much deliberation we decided on an anthropological treatment of mobiles in Cameroon. Our research included a field trip to Cameroon to carry out interviews and acquire artefacts for display, working alongside an anthropologist, a filmmaker and an historian. We have also worked extensively with the Cameroonian community in London who are helping us tell their stories authentically and sensitively.