An initiative to promote music beyond boundaries

The Second virtual Asia Music Summit focussed on creating new opportunities for musicians across South Asia through cross-genre collaborations

The second virtual Asia Music Summit by MusiConnect Asia, Global Toronto Conference and Small World Music brought alive a versatile curation of musical styles and artistes from around the continent. The two-day summit had more than 30 presenters sharing their music and interacting with about 800 people from around the world in panels, performances, break-out sessions and virtual meet-ups.

Sitar player Samanwaya Sarkar

As an artiste-driven venture, MusiConnect Asia focuses on strengthening artiste collaborations across South Asia. With dwindling live performance opportunities, the summit encouraged conversations around strategies for artistes to break into newer markets and platforms.

Kaushik Dutta, chairman, Asia Music Summit, and president, MusiConnect Asia, emphasised, “Many Asian artistes have had broad regional and international careers, but the world has had only a mere glimpse of the great Asian music in store. The music summit is showcasing and celebrating its diversity.”

Experts meet

For many musicians, creative practice has been deeply affected over the last year and there was an urgent need to address this by bringing together experts from across Asia to share ideas and initiate cross-genre collaborations. Dutta reflects, “The summit not only highlighted the sustainability and creative crisis that these artistes are facing today, but also laid out an action plan for a better future. We have been successful in opening up a window of dialogue that allows organisations and artistes from Asia to connect with their counterparts across the world. Programmes are being implemented to facilitate the consolidation of their professional practice.”

While the crisis for music professionals has been similar across the sub-continent, the cultural context and support systems within each country offered varying perspectives. Rizu Tuladhar and Bhusan Shiplakar from Nepal presented a documentary that delved into the landscapes of Nepal and living music traditions. Music festivals from across the country provided insights into today’s scenario and emphasised the transitions within the country’s music ecosystem.

Sri Lanka-based ethnomusicologist, Sumudi Suraweera, has spent many years researching Sri Lankan traditional drumming. And in his presentation from this research, he featured numerous traditional drumming artistes, their stories of music-making, and their maverick lives. The Musicmatters Transcoastal Collective is rooted in Sri Lankan traditional music and places it in contemporary settings.

Fusing folk melodies

‘Purple Fusion’ is a folk fusion band that draws on local Naga traditional songs, layering the melodies with contemporary sounds. The band from Northeast India emphasises the importance of staying true to the traditional flavour while experimenting with new sounds that can resonate with global audiences. Mhathung Odyuo, bassist, Vibiezonuo Rupreo, vocalist, and Imsanger Longkumer, guitarist, shared insights on treading the fine balance between living traditions of music and cross-cultural collaborative work even as they belted out signature tunes from their repertoire.

Purple Fusion band in performance

Purple Fusion band in performance

For most uninitiated listeners across the globe, the strongest reference for Hindustani Classical music still remains Ravi Shankar and his collaborative work with bands such as the Beatles, the Doors, Rolling Stones and others. Sitarist Samanwaya Sarkar evoked nostalgia, playing one of Ravi Shankar’s famous renditions in raag Tilak Shyam. Elaborating on his work, he spoke about the journey of sitar and his own interpretations of Shankar’s creations.

Chennai-based filmmaker and ethnographer Roy Dipankar shared his explorations and observations on rock music in India. ‘This Is How We Rock’ took the audience through a maze of artistes spanning generations of the genre, their composing, performing, label managing and filmmaking experiences. The camera followed the artistes at work, backstage, to live performances and studio recordings, to music videos and B-rolls, providing glimpses into the past, present and future of rock in India.

The summit also had renowned EDM duo from India, L. Shankar (AKA Shenkar) and Eddie Prithviraj performing as the band Radiotronics. Singer, violinist, composer and producer, Shenkar is known for designing the Double Violin, a 10-string stereophonic instrument. Over the years, he has produced different genres of music ranging from classical and pop to rock and EDM, and has also scored music for an Oscar-winning documentary.

The summit provided a space for audiences and artistes to connect and steer music towards creative resilience. The upcoming edition of the Asia Music Summit is slated for November, to be held in Nagaland.

The author is a Delhi-based arts researcher and writer.

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