by Isabella Soares
Music can have different meanings to different people. It can be the soundtrack to a memorable moment, a form of displaying feelings that are kept within, and the opportunity to share thoughts that must be heard and advocated for in this world. To local artist, Osani Balkaran (sometimes known as The O.B.) creating music was a systematic process that resulted in healing, transformation, and an unimaginable freedom. Stylus Magazine had the chance to speak with him about his evolving career, the meaning behind his authentic sound, and catch a glimpse of his creative progression.
Osani’s first direct contact with making music was through a Studio 393 Freestyle workshop. His relationship with the studio evolved into an unbreakable partnership as he acquired skills that helped him develop as an artist, as well as break into the local music scene.
“The first year I went there I learned about dancing and art making. After that, I learned beat making and rapping…Through them I learned a whole bunch of skills, as well as through the people that they would bring from out of town.”
When looking back, Osani admits that he wasn’t a natural when it came to song-writing and producing. It was a process in which he had to observe the musicians around him, analyze his perspective towards past experiences, and combine both of these elements into an honest and unique sound.
“Music to me before was just about researching…now I will do it when I don’t even realize it.”
The creative process wasn’t the only challenge that Osani faced in his early days. Performance was equally as nerve-wracking, and it took a couple years to become used to embracing the stage presence and interacting with the audience in an organic manner.
“When I started performing, I would just do my music and crack some jokes. Through the years much changed and now I have props on stage, more energy, and new songs that I have made… At 14 I was shy and had only one type of energy, and as I became older I now have a mix of slower songs, upbeat songs and I really think about what is happening around me before I go on stage.”
The bold lyrics within Balkaran’s music are evident and introspective. His first single, “Not a Terrorist”, is a result of the unpleasant experiences he and his community had towards the police after events such as 9/11 shaped the way people perceived those with an East Indian descent. The song came together after a discussion he had with the Winnipeg Police Service through an art class at Graffiti Studio 393.
“This song is divided into three parts. The first part talks about my family’s experience with the police after 9/11. The second one is about myself growing up and the experiences that I had with the police, and the third part is about how the police affected my community.”
The O.B. has also been transparent when addressing his fight against addiction through his music. After all, music was a great contributor to his healing process, for it enabled him to express the struggles that he kept to himself.
“I am almost four years sober right now, and when I was writing that music I was having a hard time with addiction. At the time, I was making these songs for myself to get it off my chest. When people listen to them I hope that they feel less ashamed and more inspired to go get help.”
Other than the candid lyrics, the beats and sound mixing form the majority of this musician’s identity. Diverse music genres and artists that were courageous to experiment with rhythm and references influenced the mix of styles that are present in Osani’s work.
“In 2013, I was listening to a lot of Tyler the Creator, Future, and Travis Scott. I loved what they were doing because it was so different and janky…I also listened to a lot of Indie and EDM, so I combined these styles to create my own.”
Even though Osani’s album is still in the works, he has shared with us that his influences have changed from his previous tracks and that he is heading off to lighter sounding and energetic music.
“I have been drawing inspiration from records of the early 2000s. The album that I want to put out sounds a bit zany, happy and is a whole animated world.”
While we wait for the final outcome of this anticipated album, Osani has proven to be a noteworthy and courageous artist willing to learn and improve throughout the years, and is not afraid to be vocal about his beliefs and experiences in order to make an impact in his community. Some of his songs are available on bandcamp, and his single “Not A Terrorist” is available on streaming services.