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. …
Siaminium – Image Courtesy of Rishova Hayat
The last few years in Bangladesh have seen rapid economic success; the cost of which seems to drown under the voices of the people and the many problems on the ground; however artists continue to take a stance and speak through the language of music.
Image: Karkhana Collective meet at Studio 6/6 Image Credit: Siam
I ended the first part of this article with a few essential questions that shift our attention from training to the practice of audio engineers and music producers, neither of which can be understood in isolation of each other. To answer them, I have to look at the spaces that audio engineers occupy and need, and the markets that they practise in. I also focus on the need for structured programs and initiatives that understand local challenges and gaps not just in the way we produce music, but also in the way our audiences are evolving their tastes and demands as we consume music globally and digitally.
Image: Box III performs freestyle over beats by Space/Ghost – Ghurni: beats/verses, at Jatra Biroti / Image Credit: Siam
It’s a strange scenario, really. It is important to position this article in the current climate of arts, new media, and technology in the country if we are to critically explore how audio technology is learned and practiced in Dhaka. As we enter the new decade, Bangladesh the state, has probably never been more excited about ‘development’- economic, digital, and infrastructural – although there is much debate about how much of it really addresses the needs of the people and our ecologies. However, for the sake of this article, my interest lies in the growing practices and markets for audio technology and new media in the country, and where the largest gaps remain for artists, practitioners, and newcomers to this evolving entertainment-scape.
Image credit: Still from film about The Black Box Project created by Petra Hermanova
The tenth Berlin based Border Movement residency saw Dhaka based producer, artist and curator Nafis aka The Black Box Project get selected to spend 2 months in Berlin.
Check out the video below for a glimpse into The Black Box Project’s experience. Filmed in Berlin and Dhaka and created by Petra Hermanova, this video embodies the passage of transition for the artist…
Image credit: Nafis, no_name_face
“Here, in this land of equality, black and white are not buried in separate graveyards; nor do black and white pray in separate rooms and churches. There are no conflicting religions, no cacophony of conflicting scriptures. The priest and the padre, the mullah and the monk, drink water from the same glass here,” wrote Kazi Nazrul Islam — a Bengali poet, writer, musician and anti-colonial revolutionary in his poem ‘Samya’ (equality), “I sing the song of equality, of a country where fresh joy blossoms in every heart, and new life springs in every face. Friend, there is no king or subject here. No differences of rich and poor.”
Left – Pulpy Shilpy (image credit -Ron Bezbaruah) / right – no_name_face (image credit – Nafis Ahmed)
The Border Movement Residency project has worked with over 15 producers and musicians since its launch in 2015 – creating unique experiences tailored around the individual needs of the participating artists. The aim of the program has always been to create meaningful and relevant creative exchanges between musicians in South Asia and Germany.
Image courtesy: Consolidate
Independent record labels and DIY culture have made it possible for many artists across the globe to get their music to a wide section of listeners. While it may not necessarily be a profit making venture at first, there is something hugely rewarding and futuristic about the ability to nurture fresh talent without jeopordising creative freedom; a huge contrast to the former model where big record labels called the shots. There are a number of small and active record labels all over South Asia who are supporting artists and consistently releasing good music. We compiled a list of labels based in South Asia that reflect the beauty of a DIY approach.
Image via Bandcamp
In the last decade, few rappers have been as enigmatic as Big Baby Gandhi (BBG). After releasing two EPs to critical acclaim, ‘Big Fuckin Baby’ and ‘No1 2 Look Up 2’, BBG put out a statement saying he was quitting rap. Once his debut album released at the end of 2013 – leaving fans and critics wanting more – Big Baby Gandhi receded into his private life. …