Compassion, Collaboration & Acceptance: How Music Collectives In South Asia Are Forging New Paths For Artistes
The creation and nurturing of a ‘community’ through music collectives have given rise to some of the most powerful social and cultural movements in South Asia. While some strived to construct a space for artists beyond the conventions of mainstream culture, others offered a safe space for dialogue on prevalent issues including discrimination, social injustice and cultural diversity. Such collectives have played a crucial role in organising artists from diverse backgrounds by offering a ground where varied artistic explorations could co-exist. We strike a conversation with some of the collectives in the region and understand in depth how their journey helped pave the way forward for a generation of artists.…
Image of Sunara playing at Pettah Interchange in Colombo. Image credit Malaka MP
Old-timey incarnations of record labels — glitz, glamour, big money and big exploitation — are great to watch in movies, but their relevance has diminished over the past two decades. The music industry, internationally, is in a perpetual state of rebuild. And so new ways forward emerge from time to time.
In South Asia, the young, independent, non-film music communities — the ones with roots in traditional western sounds — remain on the fringes of the mainstream, if at all. They’ve grown almost as countercultures, gradually finding some footing in the culture space of the region over the past decade or so, through dedicated ground work by artists and industry-persons. In such an environment, record labels no longer play traditional roles. Instead, there’s a coexistence of multiple bespoke approaches. What we get, really, are collectives — organisations that, depending on their scale and the interests of the people involved — work within loosely defined capacities within the industry. …
Image Credit – Ériver Hijano
“Artists have the ability to design perception. They can find ways to convey tough subject matter in a tolerable manner. As artists, we can create spaces and platforms where people feel safe and enabled to engage in critical conversations without having the pressure of being assigned a certain societal, political or ideological expectation. And, we can be infinitely creative in how we enable this dialogue. It does not always have to be a literal dialogue using language. For, language itself can sometimes become a mode of exclusion” says Ramsha Shakeel — an interdisciplinary artist and experimental musician from Pakistan. In her explorations, one often discovers the romance of dimensions where individual archetypes in both sound and art coalesce to create aural interactions that define human emotion.
Garam Anday: The Feminist Pakistani Band That’s Coming For Patriarchy Armed With Rage, Irreverence, & Sticks
Pakistan has found its first overtly feminist band in the tongue-in-cheek and irreverently named Garam Anday. For vocalist Anam Abbas, the name of the band really works because “it points to female angst and some degree of juvenile delinquency which I fully embrace in life and art.”
Image credit – Nadir Chaudry
Earlier this year, Natasha Humera Ejaz visited Berlin, from July 10 to September 9. The Pakistani artist, who produces music under the name Stupid Happiness Theory, was in the city as part of the Border Movement Residency. She had a plan: she was going to learn about the business of music; collaborate with artists; perform; introspect. Somewhere along the way, though, she threw it all out. …
In a way, Karachi is an anomaly. The seamless integration of conservative with unconventional defines its creative musical expression. But within its structured contours, lie esoteric nuances that transcend traditional norms of musicality. Coaxing a transcultural amalgam of dialogues within the experimental space, the city’s tryst with underground continues to celebrate the synthesis of old and new in the realm of ‘sound art’. …
Image credit: Tonje Thilesen
“My inspiration for this year took me back to my Sony Walkman days. When you had shelves lined with cassettes; when listening to a song on repeat meant rewinding back in time to just before the pause; when mix tapes were a thing and you’d scrawl playlists on their covers; when you’d tighten loose tape with pencils; when you’d discover and memorise bonus lyrics in the fold out album covers. There was a lot of DIY intent and construction involved to all of that, much like this festival.” …
Image Credit: Humayun M
Islamabad likes to run slow. But having grown up in this city, musician Asfandyar Khan, who is also the artist behind electronic moniker TMPST, didn’t quite register the pace. This changed when he moved to Karachi in 2015. He found the city aligned with his own pace a lot more; perhaps this change is what made its way into TMPST’s upcoming release, ‘Unravel’.
If you ask Natasha Humera Ejaz — which I did — the idea of happiness is really stupid. “It’s a strange theory,” she says. “Everyone’s always fighting for it. What it is. Where it is. How to capture it. I don’t want to go through life thinking that happiness is something that’s beyond my reach.” It really isn’t, which is why it’s such a stupid theory. And Ejaz, a Pakistani musician, actor, dancer, and educator, is creating reminders for herself, through her art, through the music she writes as Stupid Happiness Theory — that happiness isn’t really as elusive. That it’s within grasp for anyone who tries to capture it.