'The Most Musical Animals in the World': This New Electronic Album Features Endangered Birds

A collage of posters created by Scott Partridge featuring the birds on the album. The posters are available for sale on Bandcamp.
A collage of posters created by Scott Partridge featuring the birds on the album. The posters are available for sale on Bandcamp.
Image: Scott Partridge

Put in some headphones, close your eyes, and let chill jams and tropical endangered birdsongs transport you to the threatened jungles of Latin America. A Guide to the Birdsong of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean is a new album that features birds and artists from the region all with the purpose of sharing the same message: Save the birds.

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“What we’re trying to get across is that the message that these represent a big problem,” Robin Perkins, the project’s founder, told Earther. “We need to start listening to nature, listening to these bird songs because they will disappear if we don’t.”

The album is a followup to the 2015's of A Guide to the Birdsong of South America. On the newly released album, Perkins’ team invited musicians from Central America and the Caribbean to make their own original music. The only rule? The track had to include a birdsong from one of a handful of the region’s birds that range from near threatened to critically endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

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Each musician chose a bird from their country, creating a personal connection between the musician and the message. Birds on the album include the yellow-headed amazon, a green parrot with a cute yellow head that lives in Mexico, and the Zapata wren, a tiny brown bird found in the swamps of Cuba. The result is an electronic mix of boogie-down cumbia, sometimes haunting melodies, and the cacawing of birds throughout.

The artists, meanwhile, include the Garifuna Collective from Belize and Di Laif from Guatemala. Nicaraguan artist Tamara Montenegro chose the turquoise-browed motmot for her song, an extraordinary bird with fantastical tail feathers.

“This bird represents a lot of symbology in my area of the world because it represents freedom,” she told NPR. “And these Central American countries have been striving for political, social, economic freedom for a long time.”

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All the proceeds from the album will go toward three different projects focused on birds and conservation. In Costa Rica, funds will help purchase materials and binoculars to educate children about birds. In Mexico, the money will help create a second aviary for an organization that’s running out of room to house the injured birds they help recover. The proceeds will also go toward the Caribbean Birding Trail, a project from local nonprofit BirdsCaribbean that promotes birding in the region and helps train local guides.

Many of these birds are facing threats from deforestation, loss of habitat, and climate change. They’ve got a tough uphill battle to survive, but Perkins hopes that this music can help people hear the magic of these birds and the ecosystems they inhabit. Birds are natural musicians, and the loss of these species will be a loss of their music, too. Though the album will help raise funds for the region, birds are threatened far beyond the jungles of Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The extinction crisis is a global concern.

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“There’s something very musical about birds. They’re the most musical animals in the world,” Perkins said. “There’s something really nice about focusing on endangered species and songs that are disappearing and not being preserved and to use music to raise awareness about the species. I believe music has a big power for social activism and social change and for environmental change.”

Yessenia Funes is a senior staff writer with Earther. She loves all things environmental justice and dreams of writing children's books.

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DISCUSSION

dnapl
Dense non aqueous phase liquid

Very good. Artists along with birds, when conditions are right, should play live on NPR’s Tiny Desk. Or not. 

With that said, would the birdsong track be considered “fair use” or “de minimus” sampling?