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Ideas make you dance: Grupo TEDx writes cumbia songs from talks

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

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Some great ideas make you want to get up and dance. Ever wondered what Stewart Brand’s talk on de-extincting animals would sound like set to music? Even if the answer is no, which it likely is, today is your lucky day. A band called Grupo TEDx has written such a song, giving Brand’s talk some serious Latin flair. Listening may well inspire hip-shaking.

Grupo TEDx is a cumbia band assembled to promote last year’s TEDxBuenosAires. It brought together musicians with a passion for TED Talks and, together, they crafted songs about some of their favorites. Naturally, they chose two blockbuster talks from TEDxBuenosAires to set to music—Jorge Melguizo’s “Medellîn, the creative city” and Lisa Solmirano’s “Inclusion through sports.” But they also crafted songs based on Brand’s TED Talk, “The dawn of de-extinction—are you ready?,” Stephen Johnson’s talk, “Where good ideas come from,” Timothy Prestero’s talk, “An incubator designed for people, not awards” and Alastair Parvin’s talk, “Architecture for the people, by the people.” See what the band is about in the video below.

“We wanted to make these ideas even more popular,” says Javier Mentasti, the executive creative director at Ogilvy and Mather Argentina whose team came up with the idea for the band and made it a reality. “We wanted to use the famous Latin American beat—cumbia—to put the talks into rhythms and into the mouth of every single person singing.”

He says that the band intentionally chose a wide range of talks for their songs. “We tried to cover all the TED world—technology, culture, innovation,” Mentasti says. “Every song brings out an idea that we thought would inspire Latin American people the most. But, between us, ‘Medellîn’ was our favorite. Great talk, and great for cumbia.”

Alastair Parvin, for one, was very excited to hear the cumbia version of his talk. “Frankly, it makes the original talk seem rather dull by comparison! I think from now on I’ll make a point of only ever giving talks if these guys can come and be the backing band,” he says. “On a more serious note, though, there is something quite cool about the idea of reviving the traditional idea of storytelling  in music, of spreading ideas like traveling folk musicians and taking ideas out of their academic setting. I like the idea of it being overheard by accident somewhere incredibly unexpected.”

In all, Grupo TEDx played 30 shows, reaching an estimated 962,000 listeners. As for whether the band will ever reunite, Mentasti says it’s in the realm of possibility. “It would be difficult—this was done with a very, very low budget,” he says. “But when you get inspired by a TEDx talk, you never know.”

Listen to Grupo TEDx’s first volume of songs below. And then hope that they make more.