The Outlaw Ocean: Music Project To Raise Awareness Of Human & Environmental Abuse At Sea

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The Outlaw Ocean Music Project is a new collaboration between musicians and journalist Ian Urbina to raise awareness of human rights and environmental crimes in international waters that have for years gone unnoticed and unpunished. Based on original reporting and sound archives behind the book The Outlaw Ocean, the project will see over 250 artists from around the world release new music every month. 

While reporting for five years at sea, journalist Urbina put together an audio library of field and on-site recordings, working with noted musicians such as musical artist and producer Ben Tatlow, who is based in Hong Kong and is best known for his ambient recordings as Antarctic Wastelands. The recordings featured a variety of sounds, from a machine-gun fire captured off the coast of Somalia to the sound of chanting captive deckhands in the South China Sea. 

“My hope is that in some small way my EP and the other music releases that are part of this amazing project help raise awareness of the many injustices explored by Ian in The Outlaw Ocean, and also just help inspire people to become more engaged and active in practical solutions to these issues,” explains Tatlow, speaking to Green Queen.

Urbina’s work was originally published in his book The Outlaw Ocean, which details the global network of crime and atrocities that occur at sea, including human trafficking, intentional oil-dumpers and poachers, all embedded within the fishing, oil, cruise and shipping industries. 

Using snippets and clips from the sound archive, over 250 artists from 50 countries globally have integrated them into their respective genres to create EPs, ranging from electronic to classical and hip hop works. The artwork accompanying each EP is derived from photography captured by Urbina’s investigative team at sea. 

“Musicians and journalists are both storytellers,” said the organisers of the project in a press release. “In combining their mediums, these narrators have conveyed emotion and a sense of place in an enthralling new way.”

Some of the most powerful sound clips included in the tracks include an Indonesian woman crying at sea and parts of a speech on climate change hosted on a Greenpeace ship near the Arctic. Each piece of music therefore emcompasses a backstory on a particular issue and the need to stop environmental lawlessness and human rights abuses. 

“One emotional thread I tried to convey throughout the EP is the juxtaposition of hope and hopelessness, which is conveyed in part through the spoken word and also musically in a few of the tracks. One example would be in ‘Layers of Darkness’, which for the first half builds to a calm, relaxed, hopeful feel, yet is interrupted on a number of occasions by nautical sounds and deep, distressed sounds to hint at the plight of the human cost of the outlaw ocean,” continues Tatlow.

Aside from a dedicated musical project aimed at stopping the polluting and inhumane activities occurring across international waters, the exposé of these crimes documented in The Outlaw Ocean will soon be adapted on screens. Recently, Leonardo DiCaprio and Netflix have bought the rights to adapt the book into a feature film and docuseries. 

Lead image courtesy of Fabio Nascimento / The Outlaw Ocean.


  • Sally Ho

    Sally Ho is Green Queen's former resident writer and lead reporter. Passionate about the environment, social issues and health, she is always looking into the latest climate stories in Hong Kong and beyond. A long-time vegan, she also hopes to promote healthy and plant-based lifestyle choices in Asia. Sally has a background in Politics and International Relations from her studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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