‘The Racist Cover’:Tackling racism one key at a time

Dentsu Webchutney has reprised its ‘The Racist Cover’ campaign this time with an interesting physical manifestation of the idea to demonstrate it in an innovative way

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Jan 23, 2018 8:55 AM  | 4 min read

Sometimes even the most basic principles of humanity need reiteration. Just as the instances of blatant racism have been on the rise, so is the need to understand why discrimination based on the colour of one’s skin is misguided. Dentsu Webchutney, the digital agency from the stable of Dentsu Aegis Network, has found a rather simple and yet powerful medium to make this very point about racism. It’s all in the notes or rather, the absence of the notes.

Dentsu Webchutney has reprised its ‘The Racist Cover’ campaign with a physical manifestation of the idea that Racism = No Harmony. The Dentsu Webchutney Innovation Lab has created a special keyboard with no black keys at all.

Speaking about the keyboard, Chief Creative Technologist, DentsWebchutney, Gurbaksh Singh, said, “The Racist Keyboard was made as a symbol of protest against racism. It represents a world where there can be no harmony if racism prevails. Even the most seasoned musician cannot play a perfect harmony on this keyboard which pronounces the core message of the campaign, Racism = No Harmony.”

A typical digital keyboard has 88 keys: 52 white and 36 black. The Racist Keyboard designed by Singh and his team has no black keys. It only has 52 white keys. Speaking about designing the keyboard, Singh said, “Designing the keyboard was quite a challenge. We had to thoroughly understand the functioning of the keyboard and how it produces the music and so on and so forth.”

Normally, the white keys have space to accommodate the black keys. To build the keyboard, special white keys were created with no space for the black keys. “The biggest challenge that we faced was designing the keys. The white keys have a groove to fit in the black keys. Once we removed the black keys, we had to redesign the white keys. It took us three months to get it right!”  The keyboard has been launched through a web film showcasing Aman Bathla, World’s Fastest Pianist playing the famous song from the movie Titanic – My Heart Will Go On. As Bathla plays his iconic song, the average listener does not have any inkling about the song he is really playing. The campaign once again proves that black or white, every voice matters.

Interacting with this piece of innovation is what drives home the point about the disharmony in music when the black keys are missing. “The Racist Keyboard is available to musicians for concerts, gigs and music tours. It is also available for display at schools, college fests, public places, malls and museums.” Anyone who is interested can write to the team at theracistcover@gmail.com or tweet using the hashtag #theracistcover to borrow the keyboard.

Singh said that the team is working on sending the keyboard to Europe and other places that are facing the menace of racism. He also hinted at more such innovations that will express the same idea. “The campaign will feature 3-4 innovative pieces,” he revealed. 
The agency first launched a digital campaign in December with Bridge Music Academy titled ‘The Racist Cover’. The video featuring students of music was a special version of a song played on a piano or keyboard without using the black keys. 

In one version children played the notes displayed to them and could not identify the song they were playing. Once again when the notes were displayed, this time with the black keys, they could immediately identify the song. One child profoundly commented on the experience of playing the song without the black keys thus: “If we play white keys, it is not a song. If you play black keys, it is also not a song.” The experiment taught children that discrimination does not create harmony.  


Chief Creative Officer – Sudesh Samaria

Chief Creative Technologist – Gurbaksh Singh 

Associate Creative Director – Vishal Sagar

Art Director – Sachin Kumar

Interactive Lead – Hemant Kumar

Agency Junior Producer – Thanglalson Ngaihte & Sumantra Talukdar

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