A Little Rock musician released his extended play record “Liberation” Sept. 3 as a part of the Outlaw Ocean Music Project, an international nonprofit multimedia project which pairs music with investigative journalism.
The OOMP organization spawned from the the Outlaw Ocean Project, a 2015 series of reports in The New York Times and 2019 book by journalist Ian Urbina exposing a variety of seafaring crimes, including overfishing, oil drilling, human trafficking, arms trafficking and intentional dumping.
Princeton Coleman, the Little Rock-based musician who performs as Yuni Wa, said he was drawn to the Outlaw Ocean Music Project because of its fusion of journalism and music. Coleman released his five-track EP “Liberation” to bring awareness to social and environmental issues like climate change, overfishing, and workers’ rights .
The OOMP features over 400 musicians from around the world and 13 genres of music. Halie Brown, OOMP’s music editor, said half the proceeds from the sales of recordings goes toward funding more investigative journalism like Urbina’s work, while the other half goes to the musicians.
“The goal of the music is to fund more of this really important and really dangerous reporting out at sea,” Brown said.
Urbina collected a library of sounds during his years investigating at sea. Brown, who has worked with Urbina since May 2019 and oversees the music’s marketing and releases, said the musicians incorporate these audio samples into their music.
“Journalists don’t use music enough to access people,” Brown said. “Why should only movies and other creative media have soundtracks? Why can’t reporting have a soundtrack?”
Coleman’s “Liberation” EP opens with “A Path for Change,” a track about the importance of forging a path for progress, Coleman said.
The second track, “A Place for Us,” emphasizes the necessity of a safe and bountiful home for all, Coleman said.
“When crimes affect people near the ocean, those people are being denied their resources,” Coleman said. “They need a place for them.”
The third track, “Hope 4 Tomorrow,” combines snippets of dialogue about ocean-related industries with Coleman’s electronic beats. The song emphasizes the importance of not losing faith in the future, Coleman said.
The fourth track, “Looking for a Way,” includes dialogue clips about the dangers of drilling for oil amid a climate crisis. Coleman said the track title is also a nod to the endeavors of all the journalists who contributed to the Outlaw Ocean Project.
“The journalists that worked on the Outlaw Ocean Project were looking for a way to bring more light to these issues,” Coleman said.
The last track, “Sea Life,” tells the story of seven men Urbina wrote about when they were living and working on a ship in Gambia and had to sleep in a small hole below deck. Coleman said he wanted to highlight their desperation as they worked on the sea day after day for very little pay.
Coleman has been making music since he was 12 years old, and his main source of inspiration is his experience growing up and living in Little Rock, he said. Coleman said his current music style is avant-garde, futuristic, aware and abstract.
Brown said diverse global participation is an important part of the OOMP because ocean issues affect people all over the world.
“Music is a better way to connect with a global audience,” Brown said. “It’s a great way to spread this really compelling, important journalism about the ocean on a broad number of topics and bring it to a larger audience.”