An initiative to promote music across borders

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

The second virtual Asia Music Summit from MusiConnect Asia, Global Toronto Conference and Small World Music brought to life an eclectic curation of musical styles and artists from across the continent. At the two-day summit, more than 30 presenters shared their music and interacted with around 800 people from around the world in panels, performances, break-out sessions and virtual meetings.

Sitar player Samanwaya Sarkar

Sitar player Samanwaya Sarkar

As an artist-driven company, MusiConnect Asia is focused on strengthening artist collaborations across South Asia. With opportunities for live performance dwindling, the summit fostered discussions on strategies for artists to penetrate newer markets and platforms.

Kaushik Dutta, Chairman of the Asia Music Summit and President of MusiConnect Asia, emphasized: “Many Asian artists have had broad regional and international careers, but the world has only got a glimpse of great Asian music. The music summit shows and celebrates its diversity. “

Experts meet

For many musicians, creative practice has been badly affected over the past year and there was an urgent need to address it 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 these artists are facing today, but also drafted an action plan for a better future. We managed to open a dialog window that enables organizations and artists from Asia to get in touch with their colleagues around the world. Programs are being implemented to facilitate the consolidation of their professional practice. “

While the crisis was similar for music makers across the subcontinent, the cultural context and support systems in each country offered different perspectives. Rizu Tuladhar and Bhusan Shiplakar from Nepal presented a documentary that immersed in the landscapes of Nepal and lively musical traditions. Music festivals from across the country provided insights into today’s scenario and emphasized the transitions within the country’s music ecosystem.

The Sri Lankan-based ethnomusicologist Sumudi Suraweera has spent many years researching traditional Sri Lankan drumming. And in his presentation from this research he introduced numerous traditional drum artists, their stories about making music and their idiosyncratic lives. The Musicmatters Transcoastal Collective is rooted in traditional Sri Lankan music and places it in a contemporary setting.

Fusion of folk melodies

‘Purple Fusion’ is a folk fusion band that draws on local traditional Naga songs and overlay the melodies with contemporary sounds. The band from northeast India emphasizes the importance of staying true to traditional flair while experimenting with new sounds that appeal to audiences around the world. Mhathung Odyuo, bassist, Vibiezonuo Rupreo, singer, and Imsanger Longkumer, guitarist, gave insights into the balance between living musical traditions and intercultural cooperation, while they churned out characteristic melodies from their repertoire.

Purple Fusion band in performance

Purple Fusion band in performance

For most uninitiated listeners around the world, Ravi Shankar and his collaborations with bands like The Beatles, The Doors, Rolling Stones and others is still the strongest reference for Hindustani classical music. The sitarist Samanwaya Sarkar evoked nostalgia and played one of Ravi Shankar’s famous interpretations in Raag Tilak Shyam. He explained his work and spoke about the journey of the 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 artists spanning generations of the genre, their experiences in composing, performing, label management and filmmaking. The camera followed the artists at work, behind the scenes, to live performances and studio recordings, to music videos and b-rolls, and provided insights into the past, present and future of rock in India.

The summit was also attended by the renowned EDM duo from India, L. Shankar (AKA Shenkar) and Eddie Prithviraj, who performed as the band Radiotronics. As a singer, violinist, composer and producer, Shenkar is known for developing the Double Violin, a 10-string stereophonic instrument. Over the years he has produced a variety of music genres ranging from classical and pop to rock and EDM, and has also written music for an Oscar-winning documentary.

The summit offered audience and artists a space to combine music and direct it towards creative resilience. The upcoming edition of the Asia Music Summit will take place in Nagaland in November.

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