Through travelling and picking up cultural influences, artists are leaving behind the taste of their intercultural music and exploring the world. As music continues to cross boundaries, creative collaborations between musicians are finding a space of their own in Vancouver too.
Over the past four years, the Indian Summer Festival has been a key element in the success of some once-in-a-lifetime musical collaborations between local and international artists in Vancouver. These hybrid fusions were perfect to kick the adrenaline, rouse musical conversations and engage in collaborative learning, be it Delhi-based band Mrigya’s wired East-west combos or desert sensation Rajasthan Josh’s jam sessions with local musicians. Live music culture spawned and music venues and festivals were (and still are) increasingly interested in showing commonalities, rather than feature cultures in isolation. Curator Ashok Mathur explains:
The aim is to illustrate the movement away from what one might term insularity—‘Is this Indian or not?’ … “We have artists from mixed-race backgrounds, African-Canadian backgrounds, and aboriginal backgrounds. We want to really push the sense of diversity in our various communities. [Straight.com]
If Indian Summer Festival is where worlds meet, Big World Band is the meeting of many cultures. The members of the Vancouver-based band too are much like their music – a blend of different cultures from China, Iran, Pakistan, Spain, Europe and North America. They perform at public concerts with plucked instruments in the “guitar family” and hand drums in different cultures, celebrating intercultural understanding amongst ethnically-diverse communities. Another ensemble which claims to sound like Vancouver looks is the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra [www.vi-co.org]. Its diverse repertoire is drawn from Jewish, Persian, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Indian and Chinese music. This band is comprised of some of Vancouver’s most active musicians in the world music scene.
Musical cross-collaborations have also been bringing fusion, force and finesse (even a fun nightclub vibe!) to art galleries. For instance, Surrey Art Gallery’s continued Influx series is designed to attract disparate communities and shatter barriers between people with new collaborations emphasizing improvisation and a sense of play. Earlier this year, Vancouver, witnessed a unique, first-ever collaboration in Indian bhangra, Balkan brass and fusion belly dance at the Balkan Bhangra event. A beautiful atmosphere of unity and sharing was created where age and cultural differences disappeared.
Now, once again, Vancouver’s music connoisseurs are in for an unique experience of listening to the “Sound of Dragon” where various musical styles will melt into each other and yet maintain their individual flavour. The Sound of Dragon Music Festival is Vancouver’s first festival devoted to “Chinese music,” featuring musicians, ensembles and composers from different ethnicities, nationalities and musical genres. This inaugural event from May 9 – 11 at the Roundhouse presents a series of concerts, and free educational workshops and presentations. Prior to the festival there will be a number of outreach presentations at different locations (see complete details below).
While presenting authentic traditional music, the Sound of Dragon Music Festival promotes creativity and innovation in imaginative new ensembles and educational projects, utilizing cross-cultural instrumentations. Just as some of the other ensembles, this festival reflects Vancouver’s multicultural environment and attempts to re-define Chinese music by being uniquely Vancouver. Looking further ahead, the Indian Summer Festival will once again serve up music in all its breadth and splendour from July 3-13. This year’s headliners include Hossein Behroozinia (renowned Iranian barbat & oud player and a leading figure of Iran’s traditional music), Neelamjit Dhillon (professional musician equally versed in Eastern and Western traditions), Mohamed Asani (renowned sitarist with a unique sound) and Rup Sidhu (musician, producer and composer of many genres).
Purists may balk, but “fusion” music and cross-cultural collaborations are here to stay as they integrate all forms of styles, forms and expressions. While keeping their traditional music alive, Vancouver artists have been experimenting with tunes to increase their appeal, create new sounds, engage in intercultural exchanges and strive for maximum communication across cultures. Above all, to recognize that we all have just as much right to be a Vancouverite as anyone else, and that art form from all cultural traditions will be equally valued is actually pretty great.
Tell us what you think:
Musical collaborations are in vogue, now more than ever before. Have you attended any collaborative music performances? Do you think music collaborations have a very small shelf life? Are we in a “fusion” age now? Can cross-cultural collaborations promote intercultural understanding in a meaningful way?
By Sonia Lotay, Roundhouse Blog Team. Sonia is an experienced media professional. She is über passionate about intercultural understanding, cultural marketing, arts and culture programming, grassroots initiatives and community development. Consider her a ninja with too many interests to hold.