Project 22-2 brings together musicians in a spirit of creativity, charity and community in lockdown
Initiated by artiste Ketan Bahirat, aka Oceantied, the 22-2 project brought together 22 music producers, who created a track using 22 samples — one submitted by each initially — in two days. The compilation was released on 22 April.
On 27 March, with a beat challenge in mind, music producer Oceantied (Ketan Bahirat) created an Instagram group with a bunch of producers, who in turn added more, capping off at 22 producers. “I wanted to be involved in something with more people, so I thought of creating a beat challenge so people could indirectly collaborate and work on stuff together,” says Bahirat, who had been feeling creatively exhausted at the start of the lockdown.
This led to the 22-2 project, where each producer had to submit one sample each, and then create a track using all 22 samples, in two days. The compilation, which released on 22 April, was made available as a pay-what-you-want, with the option of zero payment for two weeks. All funds have been donated to the non-profit organisation Goonj, dubbing it ‘a beat challenge for charity’. After the two-week period, the compilation has now become available for free download.
The samples, each with a unique key and tempo, range from lush melodic pads to harsh sonic frequencies and found sound. “The palette was all over the place,” says Bahirat. He set about dissecting each sample, creating a drum-beat and rhythm, and then tweaking each bit to fit in as he structured the whole track together. “Honestly, I think this was one of the longest tracks I’ve made!” he says.
As a collective project, 22-2 allowed artistes to explore their creativity in unique ways. Being a challenge instead of a formal release meant the producers having fun and experimenting without worrying about creating a sound that would necessarily resonate with audiences. “They were really unique sounds that everyone had contributed and everyone used it very differently. That was actually the most interesting part for me, how everyone interpreted each sound in a whole different way,” says Good, MostlyBad (Mehar Bedi), another producer and one of the only two women on 22-2.
While some are struggling, other artistes are finding the lockdown particularly useful. “I’ve gone into this whole mode of self-discovery and extreme learning, because I don’t usually get the time. I think it’s been very self-reflective in nature, I’ve been more motivated, more creative,” she says. Already tackling mental health issues like depression and anxiety, the pandemic-induced lockdown isn't presenting itself as a particularly challenging time for Bedi. “I’ve seen a lot of people on the internet saying ‘I’m depressed’. And if you say this to a person who has issues with depression like five or ten times a day, they will slip into depression,” she says. Instead, through her music and her own rap challenge, she wants to "involve more people, help them distract themselves, and keep themselves productive.”
Music producer Raka (Rakshith Ashok), who's also the logo designer for 22-2, is going through a creative phase as well. For him, “this has been, strangely enough, the most creatively satisfying period" he has experienced. During the lockdown, with producer Malfnktion (Aditya Alamaru), he has put out three singles from their upcoming EP, Raaja Beats, besides creating music and art almost every single day. “Music has helped me get through some really tough times. It’s direct therapy for me. During this crisis, I’ve been channelling my time and energy into creating something new every day. It’s not only a powerful way of self-expression but more importantly, [a way of] doubling down on my strengths,” he says.
Encouraging creative exploration apart, the 22-2 project has also led to a sense of community. “We not only made new friends but were able to encourage and support each other’s work, have our opinions heard and respected. We entered as individuals and by the end of this exercise, we had a solid community,” says Ashok.
As several such challenges have surfaced and musicians have been regularly streaming live concerts on social media, a spirit of coming together has emerged among the country’s indie musicians. “Community was always there, but I feel like it’s becoming deeper, with the connections and the support,” says Bedi. Owing to a fast-paced life before the lockdown, — which forced the world to hit pause — something as simple as offering feedback to fellow producers on their tracks would often seem difficult. But not so any more. “Everyone’s a little bit more connected and more supportive of one another. [People are] more involved in each other’s work,” says Bedi.
Even as social isolation has strengthened the sense of community, it has had drastic effects on the indie scene. While there has been a transition to online performances, it doesn’t quite match up to the energy and atmosphere of an in-person live gig. “It’s been incredibly tough for the music scene to function because primarily it’s a crowd-facing industry, where you have to constantly engage with your audience in person,” says Ashok.
Additionally, several artistes don’t have alternate sources of income, making this period of crisis doubly challenging for them to cope with. According to Bahirat, with the lockdown abruptly halting all activity, “the whole industry has completely collapsed". “The independent music scene doesn’t really have organisations, like in many other countries that purely exist to support musicians, so to come back from this will be difficult,” he adds.
However, in the face of such challenges, art is also what they turn to as a way of expression. “For a lot of us, art and music are the only things we do or feel comfortable with. For me personally, it’s like a safe zone when I’m making music or creating art. It’s liberating to be able to create,” Bahirat says. And as the 22-2 project gears up for yet another release, the artistes hope this sense of relief and comfort is communicated to their listeners through the music they've created.
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