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Riffs on the helix


NOVEL IDEA: Sohail Arora (left) and Kris Correya are known for making music that's outside of the mainstream and their latest album stays true to their experimental nature

A Mumbai duo is writing songs based on - wait for this - their fans' DNA samples.

In 2007, molecular biologists at the University of California, Los Angeles, converted protein sequences into classical music. If you find that hard to understand, get ready for more. A Mumbai-based, bass-heavy Bay Beat Collective are going to use DNA samples of fans and convert them into eight tracks for their debut LP due to be released later this year. What, you say?

The experimental music idea called the Genomusic Project - conceptualised by the advertising agency J Walter Thompson - is centered around a Facebook app that asks fans: "If I were a track, it would be?" Sohail Arora and Kris Correya, who make up the Bay Beat Collective, will select eight songs (fans) who will then be sent a DNA collection kit that contains a sterilised swab which needs just a swipe of the inside of the cheek. The collected samples will then be sent to a lab specialising in genetic profiling. The resultant eight DNA profiles will then be converted to eight MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) samples - the backbone of all electronic music - and the BBC will build tracks around the samples.

"DNA is such a scientific term and we are not scientists. We are electronic musicians and that's why it seems like a far out, weird idea, " the BBC, who were among the first bass acts in India, say. But why DNA? "We wanted to interact with our fans and through this process they literally, actually get to be a part of that process. In simplest terms, this is an album we are producing with our fans. The idea exists in the US where private clients can convert their DNA profile into music, here we're making an album. " Interestingly, their first response when the idea was pitched to them was "F** k no, not possible". When they eventually agreed, they found their fans quite enthusiastic about the project. More than 2, 500 people have used the app and left a response.

The idea came about when JWT's Shvetank Naik got chatting with the boys after a gig. Keen to work together, the idea snowballed into something bigger than just a music album. "We spend a lot of time and effort trying to understand what makes people tick and this was another novel way of creating participation, " Bobby Pawar, CCO JWT India, explains. "We live in a highly customised world where we choose what to put on our phones from ringtones to apps. So why can't music be customised? Music is mathematical in nature and DNA has a code. If there's a code then anything can become music. That's where the idea came from - created for the fans from the fans. Think about it, the most organic material known to man becomes electronic music, that contradiction is just so interesting, " says the creative team who cracked this idea - Tista Sen, NCD, JWT India along with Prajato Guha Thakurta, Sachin Kamble and Mayur Mengle.

The whole process of ideating and figuring out the logistics took four months and it will be another month before the lucky eight fans are personally picked by the band. The DNA sample collection and profiling will take another two weeks but the boys expect to start working on the album sometime after mid-April. Isn't the process of working round pre-existing samples a little restrictive? They disagree. "It has made things simpler actually. We have an idea of what we want and we just have to work in these samples into the track. " Understandably, the Collective is biased towards electronic music, and towards DnB and dubstep, and so will be choosing songs from genres they like. "That's us, our sound so that's what we gravitate to. "

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