Art. Compassion. Humanity: The Bob Rabbit ProjectNick Gumas
The first time I met Rob Rigolfi was almost like a scene from a movie. When I first walked into his studio, Rob was on top of a ladder and preoccupied setting up a video projector. When he heard me enter the room, his focus immediately shifted to making sure I felt at home. Eager to meet me, Rob leapt down from the rafters, immediately shook my hand, and proceeded to give me a tour of his layout. After a quick walk around the venue, he brought me to his table and began showing me the equipment he used in his show. His energy and enthusiasm for his music was immediately made clear, but I would soon learn how even that almost took a back seat to the message he tries so hard to send with it.
Rob has a great energy and a tremendous passion for both music and people. He has been producing music since he was 17, and has worked his way through the Bay Area Electronic Music scene in style. Music has brought him fulfillment, but recently he realized there was another passion he also felt he needed to make a priority. After a trip to Haiti, Rob saw the adversity that a whole side of the world faced, and knew he had to help in any way that he could. He decided to capitalize on his already credible stage name, and created the Bob Rabbit Foundation as a means of raising money not only for basic necessities for those in Haiti, but he also found a way to give due respect to their need to tell their story through. He quickly found that he and a large percent of the local population shared his love for Electronic Music, and felt compelled to give those whom he had grown so close to a means to create it for themselves, hence the Bob Rabbit Foundation was born.
Rob’s family, friends, and community are all incredibly supportive of him and his mission. In meeting his family, I learned on just what scale he has helped various Haitian communities. From bringing in basic necessities, to giving entire families the means to find employment, Rob has facilitated growth that goes beyond his initial mission statement of promoting music. In meeting his friends, I learned about what kind of person he is outside of his philanthropy. Rob is a man who has built up a large group of close friends who all are eager to help him in any way they can. A man without enemies, Rob is known as a devout friend in his community.
Rob wears many hats. Musician, Event Planner, Philanthropist, but all of them connect back to his love for people. He seamlessly switches between his roles, and makes himself as much of a presence as the music he creates. His table is intentionally set up in the middle of the room, and he frequently is found walking around to see how everyone’s night has been, making a point of knowing everyone on an intimate basis by the end of the night. Electronic Music has always been a genre that emphasizes community, but Rob has taken this to the next level.
Virtually all charity is admirable, but in dealing with situations such as tragedy in Haiti, so much attention is given, again, admirably so, to help aid physical needs, such as food, water, and shelter, that too often the psychological needs of the people go unnoticed. The Bob Rabbit Project focuses on both. Music provides an outlet for those most affected by tragedy to tell their story. They realize that even though they are suffering, they have a way to tell their story and know that what they create will be appreciated around the world for years to come. For so many, music is a way of expression that seems to make other problems less significant, and the Bob Rabbit Project facilitates that in a new and creative way. I’m sure most of us have a hard time imagining what our lives would be like without music, and to give the actual gift of music to a world that would otherwise have no other aid in coping with the tragedy in their lives is truly noble.
Sitting with Rob to talk about his music and his cause was an experience to say the least. I felt humbled to be in the presence of such an innovative Humanitarian, and am glad to be able to share his story.
How did you get your stage name?
His stage name is largely inspired by a series of songs by The Beatles where it sounded to him that the words “Bob Rabbit” were being sung in the background. On a whim, he used it as his stage name for the release of one of his songs, and got such a positive reaction that he decided to keep using the name.
When did you start doing music?
Rob, originally starting his creative journey as a filmmaker filmmaker, first got into music while looking for a way to add another dimension to videos of him skateboarding. His friends then influenced him to learn piano at 17 and collaborate on different projects with them. Rob gives all deserved credit to his piano teacher Clifford. He finally learned to produce Electronic Music on a torrented version of “Fruity Loops”. Rob quickly became obsessed with the style of music, and he has been making music ever since.
What made you want to volunteer in Haiti?
Rob got an opportunity when he was 21 to volunteer in Haiti through a service trip organized in his community. On a whim, he went. At first not taking it seriously at all, he quickly was unable to imagine how a whole world could live the way they do and survive on so little. He has since gone back several times, and after just wanted to go further in his aid.
Who do you partner with in your philanthropy?
Bob works directly with the Reverent in charge of the orphanage he spent much of his with while he was in Haiti to best utilize the money he is able to send over. He also partners with the “Tomas Food Project” to insure that the money he sends over is spent in the most cost effective way.
What has the Bob Rabbit Project accomplished so far?
He has equipped various studios with new microphones, cables, and other music recording equipment, while making significant progress in equipping entire villages with solar power and computers to facilitate music and their general infrastructure. Although he is still in the early stages of the project, he has hope for the future of the Bob Rabbit Project.
“It’s in it’s infancy, and its growing. People care about it, and I care about it, and that makes it worthwhile”
With additional money Rob has raised, he has been able to also donate basic necessities such as food and clothing to the local orphanage. This in particular spoke volumes to me about Rob’s character and his frame of mind. While the purpose of his organization of course is primarily centered around music, his ego does not prevent him from putting his primary mission aside when he knows that his efforts can serve a greater purpose.
What does music mean to you?
“I’ve always wanted to find a way to do music full time, but without being a Rock Star”
Loving entertaining as much as he does, you might not guess that Rob doesn’t like to be the center of attention. This is a large part of the reason he positions his setup in the middle of the room, and prefers to be a part of the crowd instead of being put on a pedestal. Staying true to his beliefs, Rob prefers to put the focus of the night on his music instead of giving attention to himself.
Who are your musical influences?
“It changes. In my car right now, I have a Mac Demarco CD, two J Cole CDs, two albums I got in Haiti, an Adele CD, (and) a Ravi Shankar CD.” Rob draws from all influences to make his music and likes to take something from everything he hears.
What’s next for Bob Rabbit?
“Well this event in about five minutes.” He said, sensing we were nearing the end of our interview. Rob has an album he is currently in the final stages of recording, but more than anything has been focusing on organizing benefit concerts for the Bob Rabbit Foundation.
What is one question nobody ever asks you that you wish they would?
“Nobody ever asks me about philosophy”
A nice way to end our talk, Rob proclaimed his fascination with different philosophical ideologies, and told me he even had a degree in the subject. He loves having long discussions with people on a deep level on virtually any subject, and enjoys deeply exploring complex ideas.
In talking with Rob a few days after the benefit, he told me that through donations made to the Bob Rabbit foundation, he has been able to set up a system where $250 is sent on a weekly basis to Reverend Elie Jean and his wife, who use the money to operate a local orphanage, and have the means to keep this cash flow consistent through at least the next three months. Rob went on to say “The goal now is to continue raising funds to lengthen that period (of time), and soon enough add on a monthly stipend to pay local teachers to continue their work with the kids.” I wish nothing but the best of luck to Rob Rigolfi and the Bob Rabbit Foundation for the good it does and the innovation it inspires. The initiative he has taken to make the world a better place is something we can all take a lesson from, and I hope to, and plan on, hearing more from this project as it expands into tomorrow.