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CymbalsGLOBAL –  Nokia has a long history of creating local ringtones to match the musical cultures of the different regions in which it operates. That’s a history that’s just been enriched by over a thousand fans and musicians in a massive regional ringtones competition.

There were 1,500 entrants for the five separate contests to create regional ringtones. The crowd-sourced competition ran for four weeks, and was divided by region. You can now see the winning entrants for China, India, Latin America, South East Asia and Pacific, and Middle East and Africa.

Winners will each pick up $1,500 from a total prize fund of over $37,000. In addition, the competition provided the participants with a unique opportunity to get their work into millions of Nokia handsets where their tunes will sit alongside existing Nokia ringtones in the regions they were created for.

Nokia Sound Designer, Henry Daw, who organised the competition says the numbers of entries were evenly spread between the five areas, but “It was common for people to participate from all around the world, for more than just one of the contests,” – adding that “India was particularly pleasing, as over 30 per cent of the designers competing were actually based in India.”

The Indian and Latin America contest also created a great “community spirit” Daw says: “Lots of people were commenting on each other’s entries, which created a nice friendly vibe.”

All of the winning entrants drew on the musical heritage and culture of the regions for which they were composing.

Djembe drummer

Nigerian-born songwriter and music producer, Ikwano, explains how his winning ringtone called Simply African was created:

“I drew my musical influences from across Africa. With very few exceptions from the North, music of African origin tends to be rhythmically rich and features more percussive elements than melodic elements.”

“For my percussive elements, I laid the foundation with the feet-stomping Big Drums from Southern Africa and the happy talking Djembe drums of West Africa. To tighten up the groove and inject some sway, I added the Afro-Brazilian Caxixi shaker and the Dumbak hand drums of Ancient Middle-East/North Africa. Then the cheerful semi-percussive Kalimba of East Africa came in to add some rhythmic character and form a tonal base for the “Igbo” royal flute which is the only purely melodic instrument in my composition.

“You’d also notice a Timpani roll and swell Cymbal at the lead-in and ending just to add a subtle orchestral herald.”

Ikwano says that the brief set by the competition, and the demands of creating a ringtone, changed the normal way of producing music:

“You had to follow the brief and produce a 30 second piece that must sound good on your exotic studio monitors as well as a lo-fi phone speaker.  For a ringtone, I cared more how it sounded from phone speakers so I basically monitored the whole production process using a pair of Nokia earphones. On completion, I converted the mix to a low sample-rate mp3 and tested first on a small Nokia phone before checking the output on my studio monitors. Usually, it would have been the other way round.”

Daw adds that Ikwano’s entries were “Traditionally based but produced in a very modern way, sounding fresh and contemporary.”

Creating the contemporary sound that Daw considered vital, proved the most challenging for many contestants. PhRey (Phil) from France, who had a winning entry in the South East Asia and Pacific region with Mekong butterfly 04 says:

“I think this last step took the most reflection. In the end I’ve proposed over 70 different versions based on about 20 themes.”

Henry Daw says he tried to give feedback on as many ringtones as possible, reflecting the amount of work undertaken by entrants.

While the diversity of the different regions made each contest unique, he adds that, “I still do like to think that we all speak the same language of music, no matter where you are from.”