19 bands, 14 festival partners, 4 continents: How this online festival supports world music artistes in the pandemic era

Sonya Mazumdar, CEO of EarthSync, explains how the second edition of the virtual CULTURAS 360° festival unites musicians around the world.
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The live music performance industry is still reeling from the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. But a resilient group of music festival organisers around the world has banded together to launch the second edition of their unique online collaboration, CULTURAS 360°.

The founding organisers include Chennai-based EarthSync, which hosts a flagship industry conference and annual festival called IndiEarth XChange. EarthSync is a combined music production house, documentary film producer, and cross-cultural artistic collaborator.

IndiEarth XChange, as part of a collective of 14 festivals around the world, has launched Culturas 360° as a series of online music performances. The kickoff festival was launched on March 27-28, with the second edition coming up on November 27-28.

Artiste lineup

For two days, 19 bands across four continents will celebrate musical diversity through streamed performances. The musical groups are based in Canada, USA, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Serbia, Russia, Mozambique, Cape Verde, and India.

Hailing from the Sikar gharana, sitarist Imran Khan is a tenth generation musician who was trained from the age of six by his grandfather, the sarangi player and vocalist late Ustad Gulab Khan. He later continued his sitar training with his father, Ustad Niyaz Khan and his uncle Padma Bhushan Ustad Sultan Khan.

Cabo Verdean singer Ceuzany released her first solo album, Nha Vida in 2012, followed by Ilha d’Melodia.

Brazil’s Duo Mitre comprises of the sisters Luisa Mitre (piano) and Natália Mitre (vibraphone and percussion). Seiva, their first authorial instrumental album, was released in October 2021.

Maria and the Band, based in Toronto, have been performing together since 2011 at events such as Expressions of Brazil Festival and Brazilfest. Caamaño and Ameixeiras from Galicia in Spain perform on the accordion and violin,

From Edition I to Edition II

“What was most powerful about the first edition of CULTURAS 360 was the coming together of festivals to form a collective to support each other, and the work we were doing for artists through our festivals,” explains Sonya Mazumdar, CEO and Director of EarthSync, in a chat with YourStory.

While the pandemic situation has improved in some countries, others are still struggling with a long way to go. “In some, systems have collapsed, businesses badly hurt. The music festival sector was the first to be shut down, and the last to resume, so the strength of collective action deeply resonates with festivals worldwide,” she adds.

“While conditions have improved in some countries during this period, a large number of countries around the world still face the same challenges as nineteen months ago,” says Alfredo Caxaj, Co-Artistic Director of SUNFEST, hosted in London, Ontario, Canada.

Important lessons were learnt from the previous edition, in areas like technical and production aspects. “Things will be better for this edition. The groups have prepared much better and elaborated segments. They have also learned how to navigate the current conditions,” he adds.

“The message remains the same, because not too much has changed since the beginning of the pandemic,” Alfredo laments.

Digital opportunity – and challenge

The digital platform has created opportunities for artists to produce new kinds of material for international audiences, despite challenges.

“We have to understand that conditions remain difficult in many parts of the world. We would say that these particular challenges have been easier to navigate this time than in the previous edition precisely because there are more resources available now,” Alfredo observes.

“An important part of CULTURAS 360 work is to find ways bridge the digital divide challenges for artists from emerging economies and remote regions,” Sonya adds. Managing different time zones across continents can be a headache as well.

Virtual or hybrid?

“One of the benefits of this difficult period, if we can all it as such, is that virtual programming activities like this have given us the opportunity to reach out to new audiences all over the world, to keep in touch with our audiences, and to continue supporting the artistes,” Alfredo observes.

“The aim of CULTURAS 360 is also to create possible touring opportunities for the artistes we present to many of the collective’s festivals when we are able to return to some kind of normality,” he adds.

Outlook 2022

It will be a while for the music sector to get back to the levels it was at before the pandemic. “However, we want to remain optimistic that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and this is where initiatives such as CULTURAS 360 are important,” says Alfredo Caxaj.

One of the festival’s goals is precisely to encourage other festivals’ colleagues, presenters and artistes not to give up and to keep going despite the many challenges still faced.

“While we all wait for stability to return in a shape, form and manner that will enable a more cohesive work environment, 2022 could provide an important, valuable period to consciously rebuild the industry,” affirms Sonya Mazumdar.

The ‘new normal’ should be far more sustainable for festivals, but most importantly, for the artistes, wherever they are, she adds.

The medium and the message

The festival organisers also encourage audiences, musicians and festival sponsors to persevere and hope.

“Don’t give up! Keep creating music! If there is something that has kept people with hope for the future during this difficult period, it is precisely music,” Alfredo urges.

“We have already noticed some incredible music that has come out, and for sure there will be more. Humanity needs music! A community with no music is a community with no soul,” he emphasies.

“As CULTURAS 360, our work stands for you. We are committed to continue our work so you can return to the stage as soon as possible,” Sonya signs off.

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