Ophir Kutiel (Hebrew: אופיר קותיאל; born 1982), professionally known as Kutiman, is an Israeli musician, composer, producer and animator. He is best known for creating the online music video project, ThruYOU, and a self-titled album.
Kutiel was born in Jerusalem, Israel, and grew up in Zichron Yaacov. He commenced piano lessons at the age of six and then learned to play drums and guitar at 14 years of age. When Kutiel was 18, he moved to Tel Aviv to study jazz at Rimon Music College.
While working at a local convenience store in Tel Aviv, Israel, Kutiel discovered a college radio station that was playing genres of music that were vastly different from the classical jazz he had been accustomed to up until that point in time. Following this experience, Kutiman met Sabbo, another Israeli artist, who introduced him to Afrobeat and funk music, including the sounds of James Brown and Fela Kuti, among many others. As Kutiel's taste for music deviated from his traditional training, in 2003, Kutiman embarked on a journey to Jamaica, where he researched reggae and worked with both Stephen and Damien Marley.
In 2006, Kutiman was signed to German music label, Melting Pot Music, based in Cologne. Soon after, his first single, "No Groove Where I Come From", was released, followed by the release of the hit song "Music is Ruling My World"--a collabroation with Karolina of Habanot Nechama. Kutiman's eponymous debut album, which received an 8.2 rating from Pitchfork Media and a 7 out of 10 from PopMatters, was released in the fall of 2007. Under the Radar picked Kutiman as one of the "Artists to Watch in 2008", along with Glasvegas and MGMT. Kutiman has also won the 2010 ACUM award for producing Karolina's album, What Will I Do Now?
In the summer of 2010, Kutiman co-headlined a concert bill with DJ Shadow in Tel Aviv, performing with his live band, The Kutiman Orchestra.
In June 2012 Kutiman released a new single and video clip "Dover. D". This video, created by Kutiman, documents a street art project by Dover D. Kutiman produced this song and played all instruments featuring Elran Dekel, lead singer of Funk'n'stein, on vocals. This song was featured on Gilles Peterson's BBC Radio 6 Music show
In 2009, Kutiman released "ThruYOU," an online music video project, featuring a mixture of samples of YouTube videos, and the video project received more than 10 million views in around two weeks. Time Magazine named it one of the "50 Best Inventions of 2009". Due to the success of ThruYOU, in October 2010, Kutiman was invited by YouTube to perform at the "YouTube Play" grand opening at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
Two years after the release of ThruYou, Kutiman created a new ThruYou-like video, entitled My Favorite Color, subsequently attracting the attention of numerous publications, including Wired,Fader, and Mashable, the latter awarding the piece its "Video of the Day" accolade.
In a June 2009 Internet radio interview, Kutiman described how he first conceived of ThruYOU:
At first I took some drummers--before I had the idea about ThruYOU, I took some drummers from YouTube and I played on top of them--just for fun, you know. And then one day, just before I plugged my guitar to play on top of the drummer from YouTube, I thought to myself, you know--maybe I can find a bass and guitar and other players on YouTube to play with this drummer...
Kutiman spent two months working on the ThruYOU project, and, as Kutiman described:
It took me two months, but it was really intense. I barely ate, I just worked on a computer and went to sleep...day and night, and night and day...didn't see any friends, no family...not even the sun.
After disclosing his work to only twenty friends, Kutiman's project spread virally across the web, racking up more than one million views in less than a week. After viewing ThruYOU, open source advocate, Lawrence Lessig, praised the project for pioneering a new, less-regulated form of media, stating, "If you come to the Net armed with the idea that the old system of copyright is going to work just fine here, this more than anything is going to get you to recognize: you need some new ideas."
Kutiman did not often travel to promote his project but on 19 June 2009, he visited Wrocław, Poland, responding to an invitation from an Internet radio station. In an interview, Kutiman described the interest of various media outlets in the ThruYOU project, as well as his own willingness to focus on his work:
I got a lot of offers, you know, for gigs and for DJing and for just interviews, but I really do my best, you know. I don't really like it, honestly - but you're so nice and kind, so I'm having a great time.
At this point, Kutiman has been reluctant to comment on the future of the project. During an interview, he indicated that his ideas and future plans might revolve around "social things" in the future, but did not specify these plans:
All the feedback from other people really inspired me to keep on doing things, you know, like with a lot of people, and kind of social things. I have a lot of ideas, but I haven't started making anything just yet.
Kutiman mixes Maroon 5:
In early 2010, Maroon 5 approached Kutiman with some footage of each band member jamming by himself. Kutiman mixed the footage to create "Kutiman Mixes Maroon 5", an original audiovisual piece combining all of the separate footage into a single clip.
My Favorite Color:
The "My Favorite Color" project blends together a deeper, jazz-oriented sound that has gained numerous views and received praise from outlets such as Wired, CBS News, and TechCrunch. The video maintains the Thru-YOU style of using various YouTube video clips to form a single compilation, but the sound is more complex and dreamlike. "My Favorite Color" features many different clips, including an organ-playing mother, a young female vocalist singing in her London bedroom, and an Omaha-based saxophonist performing "free improvisation". Kutiman unites the wide range of talent in all of the videos to form a single online music collective.
In June 2011, Kutiman was chosen as the "Artist of the Season" for "The Jerusalem Season of Culture" and he created the video "Thru Jerusalem". This piece differs from his past mixes, as he himself approached and shot the musicians, rather than finding them on YouTube. Although Kutiman filmed the musicians himself, he did not provide any guidance or direction as they played and mixed the footage himself. In July 2011, the song won First Prize in the global Call for Music Videos of Palestinian-Jewish Duos or Groups presented by the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue.
In 2012 Kutiman was invited by the Jewish Culture Festival to Kraków, Poland and created second clip in his Thru series - Thru Krakow, featuring many festival artists, including: Frank London, David Krakauer, Uri Caine, Paul Shapiro, Cantor Benzion Miller, Raphael Roginski, Mikołaj Trzaska, DJ Funklore (Tomasz Jurecki), The Alaev Family.
My Favorite Band: A Tribute to "Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin:
Paying tribute to one of the most influential bands in music history, Kutiman created a piece entitled "My Favorite Band"--it became the first user-generated "mashup" video cover of Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog". Using unrelated YouTube videos of various musicians performing "Black Dog", Kutiman mixed the clips together to create an innovative cover version. Kutiman's tribute to Led Zeppelin was screened at Flatpack Film Festival as part of the "Home of Metal" celebrations. The screening occurred in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom (UK), close to an area frequented by Led Zeppelin.
This Is Real Democracy:
In 2011, Kutiman released his video, "This Is Real Democracy". The video's intention is to raise awareness by using footage of people demonstrating in the streets and of world leaders (past and present); the video is Kutiman's attempt to address and respond to the events that were broadcast through other social media feeds. Although some of the video sequences were harvested from YouTube, they mostly originate from a traditional media source--official TV stations--representing another new element in Kutiman's work.
Kutiman generally refrains from making overtly political statements and speculations were raised regarding the title of the piece; discussions asked if "This is Real Democracy" was a reference to Mubarak, Netanyahu, Cameron and Sarkozy; or if it was in reference to the unleashed power of the people as they marched, protested, revolted or rioted.
In addition to Kutiman's audiovisual collages, for which he has composed the music, Kutiman has also directed music videos.
Kutiman's first video was an animated music video created for his song, "Chaser", from his debut album. Kutiman's second animated music video was for Hadag Nahash's "Eze Kif".
In 2010, Kutiman worked with Karolina to create a music video for her hit song, "Smile 2 Me", which was shot in 150 different locations in Tel Aviv. The video has been displayed at Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, as part of the Flux Screening Series. Kutiman also received the Acum award for Karolina's album, What shall I Do Now?, which he produced with Sabbo.
"Light Up", Kutiman's video for Boom Pam, local surf rock heroes, was voted one of the "10 Best Videos" by City Mouse, one of Israel's leading websites. Kutiman utilized video projections that had been manipulated with various materials for the creation of the music video. The song embodies a semi-Moroccan rhythm, 1970s metal, "psych-fuzz", and is a tuba-driven song with deep, amusing lyrics.
In the early 2000s Kutiman has formed a production partnership with fellow musician Ronen Sabbo and together they produced several Israeli artists, including Karolina, Ester Rada, Roni Duani and Shay Gabso to name but a few. The pair also released a few Reggae inspired singles & a full length album titled "Better Days" which was initially based on recordings the duo made in 2004 in Jamaica with local vocalists such as Turbulence, Norris Man and Milton Blake amongst others.
In 2009 Sabbo & Kuti produced Karolina's critically acclaimed full length album "What Will I Do Now?" and won the musical arrangement award by Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers of Music in Israel (ACUM). In 2013 Their production for the Ester Rada single "Life Happens" became the singers breakthrough hit and was the most played song in Israeli radio station 88fm, while Karolina's 2013 single "Shadow of the Palm Tree" which they produced was the 8th most played song in Israeli Radio & TV according to ACUM.