Highlight: Eight Black video game music composers you should know
These talented musical voices deserve your attention.
Video games are the most incredible medium around. They are power fantasies that invite the player to change the world of the game for the better. You become the hero that the game's virtual world needs. By playing through these games, we learn that better worlds are possible -- both virtually and physically.
Right now, millions of people are fighting for the possibility of a better world. Black communities are leading this effort for change and they are making the world a better place for all of us. The fight to end police brutality, the prison industrial complex, environmental racism, economic racism, and all other forms of bigotry and hatred is righteous and worth everybody's time, effort, and money -- especially if you are privileged enough to never have to be subject to any of it.
And while Black communities the world over are fighting for long-deserved change and justice, there are also Black artists that are making incredible works that deserve to be heard. And our medium of choice, video games, is no exception. Black voices are being lifted up the world over as they rightfully should be and today let's highlight eight black video game composers that you should know. You might be familiar with some of these names, you might not be, but you should know all of them, watch their careers, and listen to their music eagerly.
Reach out to these composers. Hire them, collaborate with them, listen to their music, and become their friends. All of the bios come directly from their websites or through requests made via Twitter because so you can get to know them in their own words.
They are listed here in alphabetical order:
Bac Ninh, Vietnam
Hi there! I’m Jasmine Cooper, a composer with an impregnable desire to do nothing less than her best, who also decided against writing a short bio in the third person.
I went to college for music education and realized my true passion resided in creating soundscapes for stories. games, films - honestly, any artistic vision.
I thoroughly enjoy writing in different genres (from ambient music to [one day!] djent metal), collaborating with talented musicians, and have a penchant for learning various instruments to perform in my work.
I chose the name Perennial Sounds because my goal is to create music that stands the test of time.
London, United Kingdom
Dorrell is a self-taught music composer who specializes in Games & Animation.
Dorrell writes in multiple styles, from Orchestral to Electronic. He is heavily influenced by Japanese composers such as Hitoshi Sakimoto, Hiroshi Okubo & 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.
Jeremiah George is from London, UK, and is 27 years old. He graduated from Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication in London, UK with a degree in Music Production for Media BA (Hons) and is now currently studying a Master's degree in MSc Music and Sound for Interactive Games at Leeds Beckett University. Jeremiah is primarily a video game composer but also has talent in voice over.
Jeremiah’s musical influences come from various video game music especially those that come from RPGs (role-playing-games). He takes his melodic and rhythmic influences from Japanese video game composers Yoko Shimomura and Motoi Sakuraba respectively. He gives it to world-renowned Japanese video game composer Nobuo Uematsu who inspired him to go on his path to become a music composer for video games.
His main instrument is the piano which he started playing at the age of 12. He took GCSE Music at Kingsford Community School in London, UK. Then at Newham Sixth Form College in London, UK he took a National Diploma BTEC Music Technology course.
He has been composing and performing since 2008. and has great experience in using FL Studio and Logic Pro X software, using an interesting mix of orchestral samples and other peculiar instruments, sounds and electronic sounds, Jeremiah creates some imaginative piece of music. As far as video games go, he excels at composing fast-paced pieces, particularly for battle and boss themes in RPGs.
Long Island, New York
Based in Long Island, New York, Aaliya Mondesir is a composer and classically trained pianist. With a variety of inspirations that come from video games, anime, classical music, and much more, Aaliya’s music can be described as imaginative and charismatic. Her goal with every piece she writes is to leave the listener with either an image or a feeling that corresponds to the music. From 2014 – 2017, Aaliya studied music composition at The State University of New York at Fredonia. During her time there, she collaborated with their dance program and animation department. Since graduating in 2017, Aaliya continues to write as she is determined to collaborate with others again in the future.
Mariah J. Peña
Hello! My name is Mariah Peña, and this is my portfolio.
All my life I've been writing music, whether it was mini-musicals, little piano ditties, recording full-length songs, or rescoring old film classics, I've always been writing. I put my heart and soul into everything I create because my music is an extension of who I am.
My goal is to collaborate with other like-minded individuals who love their craft as much as I love mine, and to push myself to create as much music as I possibly can because one thing is certain:
I love what I do.
As a composer, I aim to create various styles of music with all of my heart and emotion (whatever emotion that may be at the time). There's usually some sort of picture in my thoughts when composing because there's always a story to tell.
As a gamer, I understand the importance of high-quality audio; it only strengthens the story, the emotional connection to the characters/scenarios, and the overall level of suspension of disbelief that the gamers will have. The better the experience, the better the fun. A fun experience....that's a huge reason why I do what I do.
I studied music production at Full Sail University (graduated in 2015) and have worked as both a composer and sound designer for various freelance game projects since 2016.
In addition to audio, I am living in Lakeland, Florida with my wife and two daughters. You can usually find us taking walks around a large lake, or ending the day with the family jumping me in a game of Monopoly (I always lose).
Let's work together on our next fun project!
John “Slide 20XX” Smith
My name is John Hamilton Smith V - I'm a composer who decided to write music for games at 13 years of age and hasn't stopped since.
I produce music and sound design for media and games under the name "Slide20XX," which started life as an extremely obscure reference to Sonic the Hedgehog. My work has appeared in a massively multiplayer online Neuroscience game, one of the world’s most popular virtual reality games, and a compilation album or two. I’ve performed at MIT’s “Hacking Arts” Festival and in Madrid, Spain as part of the Red Bull Music Academy.
In addition to games and music, I’m an avid fan of anime, slam poetry, and explorations in the role of art and media in culture and society.
Calbert Warner | Schematist
Bronx, New York
Calbert Warner, otherwise known as Schematist, is an NYC based audio architect that aims to capture the hearts of his listeners with his signature blend of orchestral and electronic elements.
Born and raised in Bronx, New York, Calbert found his sanctuary in the gaming space as it allowed him to express his creativity freely. He soon found that most of the magic in gaming came from the captivating melodies that further enhanced the player's experience. After playing Final Fantasy IX, Calbert knew he had to equip himself with the tools necessary to become a freelance video game composer.
Fortunate enough to have several mentors on his journey to becoming a versatile composer, Calbert decided to give back by regularly offering tips, advice, and strategies for aspiring VGM composers.
When he is not composing, you can find him capturing life in the streets of NYC with his Nikon D3300.
If you know of other Black video game music composers that we all should know about, share their info in the comments section below or reach out on Twitter. Composer highlights are going to be a semi-regular part of this blog. In particular, a focus will be placed on ensuring that BIPOC and LGBTQIA video game music composers are getting all the same recognition as their peers here. There is enough space for all of us in this industry and the fight to make that a reality is worthwhile.