Shanti Planti: Turning the Tables

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The unfairness of music collection societies and record label sharks has never known any bounds – but that may soon be about to change – specially with the advent of social media and sites like Bandcamp – and of course, a greater number of independent record labels. The underground artist is no longer the underdog – and Hungarian label, Shanti Planti is just one of many growing labels to vouch for that fact. Founding member, Babak is also one half of Akasha. He joins us at the MO:DEM Chill stage in just a few weeks for a cool sesh of subliminal sounds with a subtle power to tap into subconscious mindscapes. We took this opportunity to connect with Babak about the intention and drive behind Shanti Planti – and the growing power of underground artists as they take control of their own music, distribution and master the art of economic sustainability in this dog eat dog world. So if you’re an artist fed up with the state of affairs in the music industry – then read on – the tables are about to be turned…

1. So you’re back with us for this year’s MO:DEM! Welcome…

Yes! Exciting times ahead… Akasha is very honoured to showcase some of its latest music for this edition! Being more connected to the MO:DEM Chill Stage organisers surely brings more possibilities for future collaborations and certainly makes me feel like I’m returning home again! It’s a young festival so the energy is still pure and I’m not even gonna talk about how amazing the location is…! For sure it’s one of the best chill-out stages that I’ve experienced…

981755_480534838688853_1880595506_o2. The project, Akasha was conceived back in 2009. How did you bring it to life?

Shane and I met around 2009 at an after party. We had a very short conversation and he invited me to his place. So I went there with my flute and he offered me some freshly picked English mushrooms and we started to jam! It all started from there and our connection now is stronger than ever.

Shane (left) and Babak performing as Akasha

Shane (left) and Babak (right) performing as Akasha

We grew through Akasha and since we met, there were a lot of changes in our lives – big ones! Sometimes it surprises me how strong the influence of some people we meet in our life can be… So Akasha is definitely something that reminds us both of that!

3. Okay, so apart from meetings, mushrooms and jam sessions – what was the real motivator behind Akasha and more importantly, the label, Shanti Planti: what really fired you guys up to get this thing started? 

At the time I was really into old school psychedelic chill-out and Shane had grown up listening to Dub. We can say that Akasha is a good example of experimental psy-dub – if there is such a genre! It’s a mixture of primitive instruments (mostly eastern) and new digital beat. When Shane grabs the guitar – I’m on the saxophone; when he’s on the keyboard, I’m on the bass laughing – Akasha is just pure pleasure!

Babak (centre) on the saxophone

Babak (centre) on the saxophone

Okay, so about Shanti Planti – let’s be honest, we’ve had many bad experiences with record labels. We had our music stolen and ended up signing some hideous contract where they wanted us to produce two albums by a certain deadline… We also spent a lot of time tracking down copies of our CD that had been promised two years earlier – pure headache!

So we learnt there’s a certain kind of attitude that some label owners have: they want to get their hands on your art, but they don’t want to give anything back in return… If we think of a record label as a business and art as a product, then we lose the essence of what it’s all about. We need to stand up for our rights. We only realised this when we released a track with Dubmission and Jasper actually paid us for that one track! I can’t even remember what the amount was, but we were so surprised…!

There’s very few people buying music these days – and the ones who do pay – well, the money never goes to the artists, which means that distribution channels like iTunes and Beatport take a big percentage just by selling your music. So do the math – around 50 percent goes to the distributing channel – and then roughly the same amount will go to the record labels (and that’s if they’re fair) – which means that nothing is left for the artists…

With the use of social media and platforms like Bandcamp – which only take 15 percent – we are now able to cut out the middle man and be self-sufficient. Don’t get me wrong though – I’m not generalising that all labels are like that – there are many out there who have a vision and have worked hard for it and they take the scene into new dimensions.

But after everything we experienced, Shane and I had a series of deep discussions and thought about setting up a fair system where the artists can have their own freedom while earning straight from the fans – cutting out the middle-man. No distortions – no delays! When the artists have their music ready, it’s ready – and it needs to be released! Middle-men only slow down the process…

So on this basis, Shanti Planti was formed as a platform for like-minded artists to share their music. No one is the boss. The final say is always down to a vote and we all grow together. We share skills and tips about production and we connect and promote each other’s music.

Akasha 1

4. But of course there will always be the commercial music scene – without which there would be no underground… 

Yes, sure I have no problems with that. If you don’t care what goes into your head and are happy with the charts, of course there will be someone to provide that. Everyone eats cheese and there are few people who are vegan! It takes a lifestyle to be involved in the underground scene. It’s not just about music – it’s the whole culture!

One might argue that chart music has its own culture. That’s true, but not my cup of tea! Underground music is about music, not about business! We are only holding our ground and obviously the sharks can do what they want… Only with realisation can we stop supporting their business. They will go on anyway and like I said, we’re not even fighting!

5. So your own personal experience – plus inspiration from more positive labels has led to the birth of Shanti Planti…

Yes, exactly. Shanti Planti was born for artists, interaction and community vibe. The idea started after many conversations between me, Shane, Quanta and Sarah. So we’re basically an auditory collective of musicians from all over the world. Our mission is to build a community for artists where they’re all in direct contact with each other online and can decide on critical decisions. Everyone handles something that needs to be done and all the money from the sale goes back to the artist’s pocket.

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6. So apart from achieving self-sustainability – what did the label aim to achieve music-wise with projects such as Akasha?

We felt that the chill out scene in America and Australia was much bigger than it’s been in Europe and that transformational festivals are not just about the drugs and fast music. Our dream is to unite the international scene and to remember once again why we all came together in this way and why we choose to live this way. We need to reconnect and realise the importance of chill out music in the scene. Chill out is so vast that you can literally fit any genre to it.

7. And finally, tell us who you think are the main highlights of the Chill Stage at MO:DEM this year…

Flooting Grooves

Flooting Grooves, who plays at MO:DEM Festival 2014

The festival is definitely keen to bring fresh new talent to the world of festivals so I’m very happy to see 19-year old Bwoy da Bhajan on the line-up. I’m also looking forward to hearing new material from Flooting Grooves, which was made through crowd funding and collective power – simply amazing! Land Switcher and Eurythmy are gonna rock the stage too – it’s gonna be a fantastic and a great start to the summer!

 

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2 Responses to Shanti Planti: Turning the Tables

  1. Great interview 🙂

  2. AnuKi Media says:

    Thank you Maia! 🙂

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