The Silhouettes Project: a mad musical manifesto

The Silhouettes Project: a mad musical manifesto

by Juliette Eleuterio
7 min

When I first encountered The Silhouettes Project, it also happened to be the day that the great British poet and political activist Benjamin Zephaniah passed away. The London-based musical collective brought together its community for a takeover of the Everyman Screen on the Green in Islington, where Zephania – whose prerogative aligns with those who were in presence – was brought up through a panel talk not only to pay respects, but to honour his inspiring legacy. If not his spirit, it was his multi-generational and cultural impact that filled up the room.

Shouts, whistles, claps and hollering flooded the theatre’s room, and not only at the mentions of Zephaniah, but also after members of The Silhouettes Project took to the stage for a panel discussion discussing its manifesto and highlighting the new album. Nothing but supportive energy was felt, roaring in a shared passion for all things music.

Fast forward to this year, and I find myself in The Silhouettes Project’s studio, a communal gem located in Hackney. “It all started out of Route 73, which is a nonprofit music label,” the co-founder and curator of The Silhouettes Project, Jaden (also known as Eerf Evil), tells us. Next door to the recording studio is a shared space filled with wooden tables, Oriental rugs and couches, probably picked from the streets, I am told, and placed unbeknownst to everyone.

The Silhouettes Project ©

Make-shift glass jar ashtrays signal the parties that have been held in the space while random knicks-knacks and writing on the walls lend an idea of the creative forces that have come and gone. “We met in 2018, and we were going to try and come together to do a scheme for young people because we had a nonprofit studio here,” Asher (also known as Asher Kosher), the other co-founder and curator, tells us, sitting next to Jaden on a denim-coloured couch in the space.

“Jaden was in the youth sector, but we didn’t have enough insurance policies and all that kind of stuff in place to actually do that,” Asher says, explaining the roots of this now-founded musical collective. Naturally, “the next best thing was to pool both of our networks of artists and create this album project.”

Putting pen to paper, or rather marker to whiteboard, Jaden and Asher wrote down the names of artists, musicians, and producers, connecting the dots to create a bridge that seamlessly fused sounds with one another. “Everything that we do is very intentional,” Jaden explains, “it just so happens that the space that we’re in is very much based around hip-hop and jazz music.”

The Silhouettes Project ©

And just like that, The Silhouettes Project was born “as a collaborative album release, where we work with artists who are all independent artists in their own right.” On its first project, aptly self-titled Volume One, 35 artists appeared on the track list, including the likes of Bel Cobain, ENNY, and Kofi Stone. This time around, Volume 2 includes some 45 artists, and that’s not counting the musicians and producers who worked behind the scenes.

Whether more established or still up and coming, one of The Silhouettes Project’s goals is always to give “the flowers that we feel [artists] deserve.” As Jaden says, everything is done with purpose and intentions. “Everyone has something to say. Everyone is intentional. Everyone uses their words really poetically and really well.”

The Silhouettes Project: Volume Two comes complete with 18 tracks and an album cover by SagaUno, who also worked on the previous album’s art. The likes of Kojey Radical, Harvey Gunn, Nix Northwest, Tertia May, Jords, Nikhil Beats, and many more all hopped into the studio to record songs tackling relationships, parenthood, hope and aspirations, indulging in illicit substances, hard and good times, and life in general as these artists see and experience it.

From R&B tracks fit for the bedroom to the Spanish-infused “No Fumar,” the entire album’s outpour is a result of creative synergy, all left to the hands of the artists listed on each song. “As curators of the album,” Ash and Jaden trusted their enlisted artists to have full creative control. “All of the sessions were just flowing, and people getting to know each other and creating these amazing pieces,” Ash tells us. “After the first three sessions, we listened to the music and we were like ‘Yeah, we’re on the right track.’”

The music itself is more than just good vibes and great tunes – although that, it certainly is. “Music,”  for Jaden “feels like an escape from what’s going on. When you put earphones on, it transports you to another world, somewhere out of whatever misery people are going through.” With a government that continuously cuts creative funding, gentrification in London reaching unbearable heights, and the lack of employability creating an even wider disparity of classes, The Silhouettes Project couldn’t have come at a better time. As Jaden puts it “[music] is such an important vessel, and that we should nurture that side of music a lot more, which often gets forgotten about in this day and age.”

It’s Jaden and Ash’s tenacity and fight to nurture this grassroot project, part of a larger movement, that has touched so many. The creativity has never been compromised, and the ethos even less. For The Silhouettes Project, “doing something that’s a community project essentially means the profit of the project isn’t the priority – the people in it, and the message of the project is what drives it.”

Aura Arif for Culted ©

The word community is one that has, in our current age, been misconstrued, with the word being wrongfully used as a synonym for followers and customers. The Silhouettes Project comes as a true representation of what a community is, and every event – be it a concert or a panel talk – that fact is more than apparent. The musical collection draws in crowds of loyal and supportive fans, who all come together for one purpose: to enjoy “really good music coming out of a grassroots space that really reflects the sound of what’s going on in the UK right now.”

That’s not to say Ash and Jaden have completely given up on the idea of social media to solely focus on their in-person impact. In fact, they have been online platforms to promote their upcoming album, which to a modern-day artist, is a must, with Jaden rightfully noting that “TikTok is the MTV of our generation.” Thanks to social media, artists no longer have to be signed to a record label to ‘make it big,’ but that also brings along a certain pressure to constantly post and have that online traction translate to a real-life following.

“TikTok could be massive, Instagram smaller, and Spotify even smaller. Then live [they’re] nowhere to be seen – people aren’t even coming to their shows,” Ash comments. The Silhouettes Project has always prioritised real-life experiences over social coverage. By nurturing its human connections, the musical collective is now able to scale up in terms of a fanbase but without losing its integrity and never tainting its atmosphere. “Now, we’ve sold out Koko, but that was all intentional from the spaces that we created here, where there was little to no one,” Jaden states. “You want to be in a position where if TikTok, Spotify and Instagram disappeared tomorrow, you’d still be alright,” Ash explains, and that The Silhouettes Project undoubtedly would be.

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