In Conversation With: RBMA Selectee Oceantied

15 September 2016

Ketan Bahirat’s had a good year. He’s just back from a multi city European tour with KRUNK and is currently getting set to represent the country at the very prestigious Red Bull Music Academy in Montreal later in October with fellow Bangalore producer The Sine Painter.

Bahirat lives and breathes music and the industry. He’s been responsible for some incredible work with post-rock outfit Until We Last, before initiating his solo project Oceantied as a producer and beat-maker.

While the vast majority of musicians in India lead dual lives working at more conventional jobs (with an inexplicably obscene number of graphic designers in the mix), Bahirat’s 9-5 is helping run The Humming Tree, the influential Bangalore venue that’s set the standard for stages around the country with its unapologetic stance towards programming music they believe in, dedicated regulars and superior sound system.

Ketan’s Oceantied project is about 2 years old now. Despite only releasing a handful of singles and experiments in various genres, (leaning towards floaty-downtempo tunes early on to frantic footwork and jungle influenced beats and melodies more recently) Oceantied managed to grab the attention of Red Bull Music Academy – one of the most respected names in the international music industry, genre irrelevant, today.

With so much to catch up on, we thought it was about time we got in touch with the producer for a little chat about his recent trip to Europe and future plans for RBMA in Montreal.

He’ll be heading to the Canadian city with The Sine Painter who missed his slot last year after the heartbreaking Paris attacks, which forced the Academy to postpone their second phase. Ketan was busy at work when he got the news - “I was managing a gig for The Humming Tree in Delhi and I got a bunch of emails, noticed that one was from Red Bull, but totally sidelined it […] and didn't really think too much of it at the time.

Walking through the streets of Helsinki

“Towards the end of the gig, I opened up my mailbox and one subject line there read "See you in Montreal". I couldn't believe it. I was literally jumping around and everyone around me was wondering what had happened. I think it completely sunk in a week after when RBMA themselves announced it. That day changed my life.”

Of course - the excitement is understandable; RBMA has become one of the most respected institutions in music today, with its intensive collaborative workshops, daily lectures from veritable legends in the industry and performances in top class venues around the world. Its list of successful alumni can run into pages, but to give you an idea, includes: Flying Lotus, Hudson Mohawke, Katy B, Dorian Concept, Evian Christ, Objekt and so many more. Ketan’s joining the ranks, but keeping his expectations reasonable - “I'm going there with an open mind. I've been following RBMA-related media for a long time, but to experience that in first person first hand is going to be something else! I really cannot wait. To experience top-class studios, use amazing equipment, collaborate with other musicians and meet some of the best in the biz - surely a lot to look forward to.”

His summer tour in Europe was the other big highlight of the producer’s year. Along with his manager and fellow selector at KRUNK Sohail Arora, Ketan performed at venues and festival across the continent.

“It was a life changing experience for me to be touring Europe - the reception and love we got was special”, he tells us. “The first show I played was at Cross Club in Prague, which has been running for 15-years. Then we played in Malta, next to the beach with some great reggae vibes! The third show was Modern Sky Festival, Helsinki and the last couple of shows were Dimensions and Outlook Festivals in Croatia.”

Unlike most festivals in India, Ketan points out that some of his highlights came from fundamental experiences that simply haven’t made their way here yet, i.e. (and I’m sure we’re all acutely aware of these) - super late night slots, first-rate sound systems across the board and crowds of people in attendance specifically for the music. “I think the biggest highlight was my set at the Outlook Festival beach party - it was amazing to witness both a footwork battle and mosh pit within the first 45 minutes of playing music.”

It wasn’t just Outlook – the reception everywhere seemed to be very positive – “It was great. People genuinely liked the music that I played, and it pushed me to be a better DJ because there was a different mood for every stage.”

Watching Mono at Modern Sky Festival

Ketan also points out the differences between Western listeners and all of us back home, rightly pointing out that our largely Internet educated audiences are still in a nascent scene i.e. we can’t quite replace the real life knowledge of underground club culture and history that anyone who’s grown up in Europe will understand. “Our ‘underground’ acts are booked at clubs which have tables on the dance floor and people looking at you like you're a jukebox that's supposed to churn out their favourite radio tunes. There's probably 2 clubs in the whole country with a respectable sound system and a comfortable ambience, and that's just not enough if we want the indie scene to grow. Hopefully, this can change and not every venue has to be a restaurant so the company can break-even after every night.

“That being said - there's also equal amount of hope because the people of the scene have realised that working together and supporting each other is the only way forward. We’re on our way to creating out own strong subcultures.”

In fact, he seems more optimistic than most when I ask him what he thinks about the status of the scene at the moment – “It's a great space to be in right now. There's top notch music festivals happening around the country, brands are putting in money into the music scene, people are getting out more and have access to better music as well. I think it can only get better from here.”

The variety of music Oceantied has produced will finally culminate in his debut EP slated to come out in late October, after his stint at RBMA. “The upcoming EP will solidify the 'Oceantied sound'. I think my music is not about BPM or genre but more of just the output that I'm trying to create. It's a good mixture of dance-floor friendly tunes and music which you can relax to.”

Expect a lot more from Ketan in the coming year – collaborations, a live set-up, more than one release and “news from a super secret project”.

We’ve got our hopes high for this one.

Words: Diya Gupta
Image credit: Ketan Bahirat


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