Welcome to the second part of this short feature on Black videogame composers.
If you missed last week, start here.
This may be the last column I write fexactly like this here for now, but it’s not the end of the story. Or my coverage of Black game composers. I’ve listened to so much incredible music in the past two weeks—all from Black game composers. It’s not on me to tell you their work is incredible. And it’s not necessary that it is either. Plenty of white game composers are getting all kinds of paid for uninspired and mediocre work.
Still, I’m going to say it anyway because I haven’t listened to anything else besides these artists all week—it’s fantastic.
There’s so much brightness to this work, and so much variety, from fresh jazzy riffs, to the ultimate in spaced out chill beats. From hype fantasy adventure tracks to the grungiest of sci-fi noise. There’s diesel, chrome, and steam every bit as much as darkened rooms and hushed whispers over cognac, or magical cat girls living in clouds. And then there’s just some chiptune work that absolutely slams.
These two columns are not comprehensive. They couldn’t possibly be. They’re a narrow snapshot, as wide as I could manage in a short window, of this moment in time. This is a quick pulse check, and this pulse is strong and vibrant.
There are other Black videogame composers out there. There will undoubtedly be more. And they’re doing their best to be heard and hired.
Let’s do our best to make sure that happens. To remake this industry into one worthy of their drive, dedication, and creativity.
Geneva is a black nonbinary game developer that’s working on a roller derby rhythm game called Skate & Date. They’ve made music for almost all of their games and occasionally make covers/mashups in their free time.
I started my creative pursuits by writing raps inspired by the classics frequently bumped by my dad and learning to play the trumpet at age 13. I quickly realized that what I loved about hip hop was not necessarily the words themselves, but the way they’re rapped in tandem with unique, effective production. I taught myself beat making by utilizing music production, piano, and music theory tutorials on YouTube and in books. Made using the Akai MPD 218 and MPK 249, my beats combine the old-school hip hop flair of my days rapping with dad with odd-sounding samples and ear thumping/grooving basslines.
After searching for more pursuits that combine creativity with technology, I took a game design course while studying for my computer science degree. I have since made several indie games, designing the gameplay, art, and music by myself. I’m currently merging all my passions into one by developing Spittaz, an indie game about rapping. I hope to polish and release more creative pursuits, inspiring a new generation of videogame and hip-hop lovers.
I’m Mariode, a 21-year-old composer who takes inspiration from old school videogames to create nostalgic soundscapes with a modern touch and is part of the game inspired music collective DESKPOP
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been inspired by videogames and anime, walking around humming to the music. From driving teachers crazy with pen tapping the rhythms to my favorite Mega Man themes to being kicked off of the drums in the band room, I eventually became a self-taught percussionist, which led to me becoming the percussion section leader in high school. Today, I implement my skills into the music I compose. My goal is to strengthen the stories of anime and videogames by putting everything I have into each composition.
Alonso Pirio is a media composer based in Los Angeles, Calif. Growing up playing videogames and living in a mixed-background household, he places an emphasis on world-building and combining diverse styles to create a unique sound for every project he writes for.
His film scores have been featured at American Black Film Festival, the Matt Groening Animation Fellowship Screening, Outfest, Outfest Fusion, and Frameline.
One night, while playing Golden Sun way past his bedtime, a ten-year-old Hassan DuRant heard something that made him put down his Game Boy in awe. The Elemental Stars track sparked both a lifelong love of creating sounds and a relentless effort to capture in his own music the wonder he felt as a child.
The award-winning North Carolina artist composes in a wide range of styles. Whether he’s writing electronic, orchestral, jazz or something else entirely—catchy melodies, expressive harmony, and funky rhythms lie at the heart of his work.
I’m Fabian ‘Fog’ Measures a.k.a Fogheart, born and raised in Bradford, West Yorkshire, U.K.
When I first started composing I set up a group on Soundcloud (back when Groups was still alive) for people to share their VGM compositions and give each other feedback. “RPG Music Square” essentially became a place where new/aspiring VGM composers, people like
@JoeSua4711@Schematist and @DorrellEttienne, flourished and became regulars who I got to see grow from that first post into where they are now. It was a privilege to be in such a position.
As a ‘half-caste’ ‘mixed race’ black person, I have a lot of issues around identity. My white side has given me some of the privileges that black people just don’t get. It’s also meant that bullying has been commonplace throughout my life. Pair identity issues with imposter syndrome and maybe that’s why it took so long before I was able to put a price on a piece of music.
Jamal Green is a composer, musician and producer with an incredibly distinct and versatile voice which he has crafted over many film and game projects. Whether nurturing an ecosystem in the indie game sensation Equilinox or being brought to tears by the final scenes of the feature film Aberdeen you will find Jamal’s scores breathing life into incredible characters and stories.
A lover of all genres and sounds, Jamal always experiments with unique and interesting sound palettes to suit the projects he works on. World music elements (particularly African and Indian music) can be found in a lot of his music which gives it an unequivocal flair. This, combined with his passion for creating cinematic and symphonic music as well as his frequent use of electronic elements is why he has become a greatly coveted composer for animation, games, film and TV.
As a producer and songwriter Jamal has written songs which have featured on some of Spotify’s biggest playlists such as The Most Beautiful Songs in the World, Lost in the Woods and The Wind Down.
Dorrell is a self-taught music composer who specializes in games and animation.
Dorrell writes in multiple styles, from orchestral to electronic. He is heavily influenced by Japanese composers such as Hitoshi Sakimoto, Hiroshi Okubo and Joe Hisaishi.
Currently freelance, he is working on Onsen Master which was shown on WholesomeDirect. He has also composed for the mobile game Wanderer of Lifetimes.
Dorrell looks forward to collaborating with all types of creatives and is excited to contribute new music to projects.
Hi, I’m from San Antonio, Texas, and I compose and arrange music. I’ve been involved in music in some way my entire life. I’ve been fascinated with videogame music since playing Pokémon Colosseum as a kid. I specialize in hybrid orchestral music, but I am experienced in many genres. The best way to keep up with my work is following me on Twitter.
I’ve known since I was a young teen that I wanted to do something with videogames and music. My mom gifted me a keyboard for my birthday after noticing my incessant drumming on anything in the house while listening to sound tests in my favorite games, and this was the gateway into learning to compose music! After a search on Dogpile.com to find “software to make music with,” me and a few close friends started remaking our favorite videogame music and eventually started making completely new tunes. Fast forward some years, and now I have music on OCRemix.org, I’ve contributed to numerous netlabels and projects like DESKPOP, Relay Bros., GAXEL, and Industrial Parasite, I’ve DJed at MAGFest and on a few online shows, and I also linked up with Notion Games with Andrew Augustin (huge shoutout to Calum Bowen for that, btw!). I have worked on a few game projects and I’m currently working on new things together with him! All the while, I have tons of personal stuff I put out somewhat regularly while holding down a job at the local hospital here! I’m definitely looking to make music my main gig in the very near future though, and I’m not going to stop working at it anytime soon!
is Dia Lacina’s weekly non-linear, non-hierarchical aural odyssey through gaming’s great soundtracks.
Dia Lacina is a queer indigenous writer, photographer, and founding editor of CapsuleCrit.com, a monthly journal dedicated to microgenre work about games. She tweets too much at @dialacina.