When we last saw Onyx Ashanti, he was speaking of a grand vision to remake himself into a music-performing Tron. Now, the elements of that vision are coming together, with a crowd-sourced funding campaign that ends today, Friday. Update: Apparently after seeing this story, IndieGogo extended the funding deadline for five days, with the new deadline Thursday, December 1.

I knew Onyx back when he was playing more conventional wind controllers. Now, that fingering arrangement is freed from the virtual wind instrument, handheld and movable through space. Because of the plans to open source everything he’s making, you might yourself pick up that hand controller – or, if you’re like Onyx, go full-tilt with physical training to make your body do new things and a carbon fire, full-body prosthetic transformation.

Onyx has been at auditions for the main TED (the big one, not TEDx), experimenting with a beatbox configuration, and honing alien-like futuristic human reinvention with the help of artist Christopher Logan, aka Loganic. Loganic makes the art, then prosthetic engineer Uli Maier – with doses of carbon fiber – translates those notions into physical form. And the whole thing is mobile; Onyx draws on his busking background to take this thing wherever he goes.

Initially built as an open/proprietary hybrid, the new system is increasingly open source from the ground up, from customized Linux-based software to Pure Data (Pd) patches to open source designs for the molds. The wearable system can be 3D printed. Plans for the system also were featured in Make Magazine.

It’s actually quite a lot to digest, but Onyx has been posting videos, the most recent and illustrative of which I’ve included here. And because there’s a lot to do physically, from personal training to buying clay to engineering the prosthetics, Onyx is relying on crowd-sourced funding. In place of Kickstarter, which has specific requirements for minimum funding and other restrictions and requires US-based banking, he’s opted for IndieGogo.

If you invest just a few dollars, you at least get music; with successively larger donations, Onyx throws in his software, custom artwork and posters, t-shirts, or starting at US$500, the custom hardware itself for your use.

The IndieGogo campaign ends Thursday, December 1:
IndieGogo: Beatjazz System

— but we’ll be in touch with Onyx on an ongoing basis, so let me know if you have questions for him or want to watch this continue to evolve.

Videos showing the making of the elements of the system:

Above: New visualizations in 3D have vastly expanded the now-Pure-Data-based audio system with heads-up displays worthy of the spacesuit. Below: Some of the beautiful concept artwork produced for the project.

IndieGogo Campaign

Previously: Onyx Wants to Make Himself Into Helmeted, Wearable-Music-Tech Tron, With Your Help

  • ex-fanboy

    on top of it all he's a really nice guy too.

    support him!

  • mdk


  • I told indiegogo that the project got picked up by CDM and they granted a 3 day extension for the campaign, so feel free to drop by the page and see if it is still going. http://www.indiegogo.com/beatjazzsystem


  • Lame. There I sed it. Hate me (but KNOW WHY yer hatin' me, nodimesane?). The End.

  • Nice track

  • Brian

    this was crap.

  • Bjørn Nesby

    It's not the first time that someone is performing a re-imagination of the body as a controller, but this project takes the idea so much further. Gestural synthesis? Hell Yeah!! I'm really impressed with the ideas presented here 🙂 

  • I like it. The only thing that gets me is there is absolutely no reason to use carbon fiber, the devices that are being made can be done with vacuum forming, or styrene with a coating, or fiberglass without weighing that much more if at all (very small) … Hell the only real reason I can see is the strength to weight ratio, but this isn't holding up weight like a prosthetic leg. It's just a total waste of money and kind of insulting to crowd source for the "cool" factor of carbon fiber.

  • to answer your question about the reason for carbon fiber.

    1. not being combative, but, have you ever gigged? have you ever performed "near" and audience with your (electronic musical) gear?  have you ever been "in" an audience with your musical gear, while performing? have you ever taken a plastic instrument into a dance music crowd?  repeatedly?  or had to hold it up, let alone hold your arms out and do gestural control of parameters? for an hour or more? or had it fall off a table or sat on? I have.  weight and durability are of supreme importance.(carbon fiber is molded using vacuum forming)

    2.AND It's cool as hell!  the cost of the perk would have been the same had i made it from carbon fiber, fiber glass, wood, cotton, cheese or kittens.  workshops and expertise are the expensive part . i have an expert helping me and we are making use of his workshop.  

    you gotta take the time to research rather than react to the hype as well.  carbon fiber is more expensive than fiber glass but its not 1990 anymore. the costs are waaaaay lower than you think, even for high grade stuff.  the amount of carbon fiber, per controller, is approximately 50cm sq. (not exact as i can probably make many smaller pieces from the same 50cm example piece) 2m of carbon fiber will do for all of the controllers claimed so far, with quite a bit left over.  2m carbon fiber makes approximately 10 controllers (complete head interface, and 2 hand unit bodies) and cost between 75 and $150 a meter (lower some places like ebay. i can provide links if you like).  so the cost per controller for 10 is approximately $15 to $30 and for the 6 i am to build so far, approximately $30-40ish.  so i decided that contributors would get something really cool for their $500 or $1000 contribution.  

    lets see which of them will think that it's an insulting waste of money.

  • 1. Yes

    2. I know it's cool, I'm not arguing that.

    From my experience carbon fiber is the most expensive option realistically available. I fail to see any reason for using carbon fiber when there are a dozen other options that are just a suitable for this project. You can make any material *look* like any other without much fuss. What rubbed me the wrong way was picking the most expensive option, and then asking for people to donate. 

    On the other hand I guess I forgot that the material cost will only be a small portion of your expenses, guess I'm so used to DIY that material cost is usually the only part of the budget. 🙂

    Again I do think the project is cool. 

  • cheers! 🙂 sorry if it seemed defensive but with this project, i dont want anything "like" something.  you know? I dont want to play psuedo-carbon fiber plastic (id rather just do something cool with plastic) just as there are no presets or prerecorded material on the software system; all improv and heavy lifting.   I'd rather make it as bad ass as it can be, especially for the contributors.  I want them to get it and feel like they won the lottery when they recieve it.  they didnt have to fund me.  I'm sure not going to shortchange people who are funding my dream.  besides, this is just the beginning. best promotion for future projects are people who are ecstatic about what they got for their money, even if getting something wasnt their primary motivation.  

    just wait til graphehe is available…

  • fazed

    I love the idea and highly support this idea, i really love it…

    But i'm going to be honest here.. I really wouldn't go out and listen to an hour long set of this style of musical experimentation, hell the novelty of the device couldn't even keep me interested for the duration of the youtube clip. I know this sounds really harsh, but i rarely ever see the point in these kind of hack devices for a 'real' performance. This to me is more like performance art / theater than a real music performance (i mean how much control or possible expression does he really have?). If he can develop it into a device that actually accurately lets him play with finesse and skill (as opposed to flailing his arms around the place), then i would say 'hell yeah!" but as it stands its just another gimmick.

    Yes i understand we need innovators like this to push technology forward and i am really impressed with his idea's, skill and dedication getting it this far… but i really dont think it's stage ready. I think the electronic music scene image suffers alot from this kind of stuff.. I mean you can see why alot of musician see stuff like this and think electronica acts arent real musicians. Does this kind of performance erode our integrity as a collective scene?

    I know alot of people would look at this and go 'WOW thats amazing!, but even more will look at it and go WOW that guys just dancing round making bleeps and bloops devoid of structure and melody WTF is he doing?

  • fazed

    Oh god my comment sounds so horrible…

    Didn't mean to rant…

    Good luck with it Onyx! I really hope you do well bro 🙂

  • Congratulations! You win! you trolled me! yaaaaaaayy!!! I'm not always gracious because i dont have a PR person who tells me when to just shut up, so let me break it down like this…

    I like it. I do it for me. I like what i do, to the point that I was happy just busking my way thru life with my wierd sound and wierd toys. apparently other people dig it too and are willing to pay me to do it as well as buy my toys.

    you should ask yourself, what do YOU do for your music? do you LIVE it? do you LOVE it? seriously L-O-V-E It!! willing to sleep in a tent just so you have time to practice-love? Although i hate assumptions, I am going to go out on a limb and hazzard a guess of "not so much". But I do. it is my life. i couldnt give a shit if you dont like it or what you think about it. you opinion is absolutely worthless to me unless it is in the form of actual critique that helps its chosen trajectory or in the form of your brilliant alternative. I am serious. what are you doing?! where is your critique? or do you just see someone doing something "else" and decide it would be cute to write a long ass diss then try to make it seem less shitty by posting again with "hope it goes well bro" 🙂 keep your well wishes. if you are a musician/artist, show how useless my concept is with your own concept and or your music.

    any time you feel like you can teach me something, I am an attentive student, and more than willing to learn, but i find that most of the people with that level of insight are too busy doing stuff, to post crap on comments.


  • license

    Yeah, sorry, I'm not trolling and I remember when you were on em411. I really appreciated your contributions there. But this seriously does not sound good man. This probably sounds mean as hell but you are either deluding yourself or you just have bad taste in sounds. I understand that this hardware project is really empowering for you. But don't let the thrill of that get in the way of the music. This is bad, bad, bad.

  • Bjørn Nesby

    Argh, the bitterness of some people. 

    @fazed: "stage ready"? Sounds like you're thinking about music as a product – think of music as culture, man.

  • fazed

    @Bjørn Nesby

    maybe that was a bad choice of words.. I don't think of music as a product, but I do believe there should be a certain level of polish to a performance before it is presented. I hate watching people musically masturbating if you know what i mean, the people who are performing to themselves for their own gratification with a deluded sense of grandeur. Disclaimer: ! I dont think onyx does this ! but i just think he should practice his performance and polish it a bit..

  • fazed

    @Onyx Ashanti

    Hey man,

    maybe i am just a troll 🙂

    that rant wasn't at you specifically, more at the whole scene of tweak toys. it just seems that having a gimmicky controller justifies a lack of quality and overall sound.

    your obviously very talented or you wouldn't have made it to this level, i just hope you don't loose focus on what it's all really about… the music.

    all this controller obsesion lately is just has me loosing interest in what i love the most.. the music.

    thats why i compared it to performance art because to me this style of performance is more experimental dance than an actual musician.

    I hope i haven't got under your skin man, im just another faceless internet persona after all 😛

    i have to remind myself sometime that music is a mission, not a competition 🙂

    your definitely well on your way in that mission.

    if i ever see you playing in my town, i'll come to your show and give the experience a first hand viewing.


  • lostfound

    The haters here just prove that you're onto something Onyx. So long as you continue to be true to what you love to do, you can't go wrong. Wrong is a word. Like and bad are opinions. Music is preverbal. And love is the unknown making life new.

    Where you go next is where I am most interested in. After you complete this current project — where you take this tech next…is where I'm thinking you are going to leave the known behind.


  • Yeah, I think i just had too much time on my hands yesterday. I must apologize. thank you for your opinions, all. please note that this is a 6 month old prototype made of cardboard. The goal of the campaign is to make it better and better. I am optimistic that it is and will continue to happen. (feel free to contribute) cheers!

  • simon

    I heard better, more engaging music by buskers using pans and pieces of scrap metals. As others have said, it's cool that this pushes technology forward, but I really didn't get the point of the music. This sounded like a bad tech demo for the new '96 Gigatronus F-2000 FX Groovebox. I enjoy pretty much every style of music from folk rock to Richard Devine so it's definitely not closed-mindedness.

    This is harsh, I know, but it's how I feel about the music. Maybe there's something I'm not hearing or seeing there.

  • seo

    Whats up this is kinda of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding experience so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!