Music can change lives. ANTI-DO-TO funds a recording studio for ex-prisoners music artists in Douala, Cameroon.
The activist post-streetwear brand ANTI-DO-TO invites its community to discover music as a powerful instrument of expression and redemption in Douala, Cameroon. It is the brand’s second social project since it was founded, after financing the completion of Ha'ramba, the first skatepark situated on the Gaza strip, created specifically for young Gazans.
On the coastal city of Douala, in the Central African nation of Cameroon, lies the stuffy and chaotic New Bell prison, known to be one of the toughest in the entire African continent. It looks more like a refugee camp, 3000 inmates are crammed into a space built for just 800 people. 70% were put behind bars without trial, for years, and without being convicted, as the law does not place limits on pre-trial detention. As a prisoner, you are voiceless, excluded by society, and left to take care of yourself. After leaving prison, it is not easy to fully re-integrate into society due to the stigma surrounding it. Right in the middle of all this chaos, Jail Time Records was born.
Jail Time Records is the collective that manages the record and audio-visual production label created by current and former inmates and founded in 2018 by artist and director Dione Roach right in the central prison of Douala. From the recording studio for prisoners - the first ever in an African prison - the project took off quickly - even outside of the prison - and brought together not only musicians but also creatives and dancers.
The new out-of-prison recording studio funded by ANTI-DO-TO
With Jail Time Records it was love at first sight from the first meeting in 2021 when, after listening to their story, ANTI-DO-TO decided to support their project by fully funding the implementation of a new music recording studio in the Deido district of Douala, this time outside of prison.
From mid-May and for the next six months, the brand's community will participate in the project with every purchase; in fact, 50% of the net profits from every sale will directly re-fund the project. Thanks to insights, content, and reports, the community will be able to see the behind-the-scenes of this project and will thus be able to approach this reality and its protagonists, by also feeling as if they were in Douala.
The new recording studio is critical for the reintegration of ex-convicted artists into the community. The goal is that rappers, producers, former prison artists, and label affiliates can continue to cultivate their musical talent once they leave and, above all, keep away from what brought them to jail. In fact, in Cameroon, the recidivism rate is around 80%.
Furthermore, the project seeks to change society's perception of imprisonment. It is still considered taboo, especially for families, to accept those who have been in prison. Seeing many artists engaged in a concrete project like this one can really help.
Since 2018, Jail Time Records has seen about a hundred artists grow and already fifteen of them are now actively devoting themselves to music by attending the new studio: their new single will be released by the summer, after the success of 'Tuerie 1’ e 'Djenko' ('Everyday things' in the local language).
The music - with their songs in French and English, a mix of hip hop, trap, world music, reggae, electronic, and afro - has quickly become for many inmates and ex-inmates the only way to express themselves and finally find their voice, as well as a reason to keep fighting and believing in a second chance.
Dione Roach, Founder of Jail Time Records, says:
«Thanks to ANTI-DO-TO we were able to realize the dream of creating a recording studio outside of prison, and for the artists of Jail Time Records, this certainly represents a real turning point. Music changed their life in prison, but once they get out you need to be able to keep them focused. This is the most critical moment. To have a place to meet, continue to register for free, feel comfortable and supported by those who know their reality well means giving them a new chance in life».
ANTI-DO-TO, which for several months has been working alongside Jail Time Records to kick off the construction work of the studio it financed, will also continue to support the project for two years both by paying rent and by promoting the studio’s activities. If the ex-prisoner artists, supported on both an economic and motivational level, will have free access to the study and, in addition to recording, will be able to test themselves with sound engineering and production, their reintegration will go hand in hand with the scouting and promotion of new talents. Thanks to access to paid services by outsiders, the firm will gradually begin to finance itself by finding the right economic independence.
Made in Prison graphics for the capsule curated by Federico Curradi
Thanks to a workshop organized by Dione in prison, even art has become an important tool for evasion and freedom of expression for the prisoners. Their intense paintings are the protagonists of the capsule collection dedicated to the project and created with the artistic direction of the designer Federico Curradi, who on his last trip to Cameroon in 2021, got to know and collaborate with Jail Time Records. Federico has chosen to customize 11 ADT garments - Hoodies, T-shirts, and joggers - with some digitally printed works including "Rosine", "Hard Times", "Genuine Lover" and "Redemption" with GOTS certified water pigments. Inspired by the energy and liveliness of the place’s colors, the garments are made of GOTS organic cotton in white, pink, green, and blue and present applications derived from textile waste and details in colorful knitwear, all made with care in small workshops in Italy, in the Veneto region.
Federico Curradi, artistic director of the capsule:
"Since my first visit to the prison and in these months of working with artists, I was struck by how the drawings of the artists of the Douala prison perfectly express the power of creativity as a tool of liberation and evasion. Color and graphics become almost pop art, with an energy and expressiveness that challenges the place where they were created. I would like for those who choose these garments to fall in love with this story and wear it with pride."