18 bands, 5 continents, 9 festival organisers: how this free online festival supports world music artistes

Sonya Mazumdar, CEO of EarthSync, explains how this unique virtual collaboration tackles pandemic challenges to the music industry.

The pandemic has dealt a harsh blow to the live music performance industry, ranging from gigs to festivals. But a resilient group of music festival organisers is banding together to launch a unique online collaboration, called Culturas 360°.

“All the music festivals in our collective work with world cultures. For quite a few years, we have been trying to find a more sustainable environment for artistes. The pandemic broke the music industry worldwide, and demolished the systems in place,” explains Sonya Mazumdar, CEO and Director of EarthSync, in a chat with YourStory Media.

The festival collective

Based in Chennai, EarthSync is a music production house, documentary film producer, and a global, cross-cultural artistic collaborator. It is committed to nurturing folk, native and contemporary music.

Its flagship industry conference and annual festival is called IndiEarth XChange. It brings together independent music, film and media, with a focus on cultural diversity and regional development.

IndiEarth XChange, as part of a collective of nine festivals around the world, has launched Culturas 360° as a series of online events including music performances. The kickoff festival is being launched for free viewing online this weekend, on March 27-28.

The international festivals involved are Sunfest in London, Ontario (Canada); IndiEarth XChange in Chennai (India); MMM Festival in Maputo (Mozambique); MARE in Santiago de Compostela (Spain); Ollin Kan Festival in Mexico City (Mexico); Kriol Jazz Festival in Praia (Cape Verde); Havana International Jazz Festival in Havana (Cuba); WOMAD in Recoleta (Chile); and Artes á Rúa in Evora (Portugal).

For two days, 18 bands across five continents will celebrate musical diversity in a spirit of unity through their streamed performances. The festival organisers aim to promote a vision of an equitable world where the voice of every culture is acknowledged, valued and protected, according to Sonya.

Artiste lineup

The diverse lineup of 18 bands from around the world includes MamaSonika, Son Rompe Pera, Maya Kamaty, Pratik Shrivastava, Khoomei Beat, Siti and The Band, Abraham Cupeiro, Francisco El Hombre, The Lemon Bucket Orkestra, E.T.E., Septeto Santiaguero, Morena Son, Moticoma, Cheny & Xixel, Kalimarimba, Carmen Lienqueo, Jenifer Solidade, and Triunico (see full descriptions and performance schedule on the festival website).

The lineup of musicians hosted by IndiEarth XChange includes sarod player Pratik Srivastava. He was initiated into the art of playing the sarod at the age of six, by his grandfather Pandit Rabi Chakraborty, himself an eminent sarod artiste.

Pratik started his journey as a performing artist at the early age of 12, and was eventually featured as a solo instrumentalist in the field of Hindustani classical music in various national and international musical events and festivals. His contemporary approach to music has given him the opportunity to collaborate with musicians from different parts of the world in cross-cultural and experimental music projects as well.

Another featured artiste is Maya Kamaty from Réunion island in the Indian Ocean. Her work expands the landscape of local traditional music, maloya. It is regarded as the expression of enslaved and oppressed African and Malagasy peoples who worked on the island’s sugar plantations. It became an identity and resistance symbol, and was even banned until 1981 by the government.

Maya Kamaty's father, Gilbert Pounia and his band Ziskakan, was one of the spearhead artistes to liberate the music, with a very young Maya as a backing singer. She rediscovered the importance of her Creole roots while studying in France, and returned to the island to form her own band and write her own songs, fusing local rhythms with global electronic influences.

Another notable fusion group is Siti and The Band, blending mystical Zanzibar music traditions with contemporary jazz, funk and reggae. Zanzibar’s music itself has influences of ancient Arab, Persian, Indian and African musical traditions.

Ecosystem support

The like-minded festival directors have pooled together their production resources, audience networks, and brands for this digital platform initiative. “This will be a hybrid model. There will be an annual virtual event, as well as live performance opportunities for artistes across the world under the Culturas 360 banner,” Sonya adds.

The pandemic has posed severe challenges to RoI models for festival sponsors and advertisers. “The business models need to be remade for this pandemic era, from a socio-economic restructuring perspective. The system should have a wider benefit,” she explains.

Supporting such hybrid global-local online-offline projects can help sponsors and supporters get new kinds of brand visibility and business opportunities. “Ultimately, this will enable artiste growth and professional employment, empowering us to continue our work for culture, music and artistes,” Sonya emphasises.

She urges audiences to sustain artistes during these hard times, especially traditional, folk and classical musicians. “Support the efforts of organisers, culture professionals and above all the artistes,” she advises.

Observing safety protocols, smaller local gigs can be supported. “Donate. Help organise funding. Spread the word. Be proactive, get involved, and engage,” Sonya urges.

“I am humbled, grateful and empowered by the worldwide support of the industry for this initiative. They are all standing with IndiEarth XChange and our collective, and supporting our work for artists and cultures,” Sonya proudly says.

The road ahead

“To musicians out there, I would say, keep going with your efforts. If there is anything that has kept humanity during this difficult time with hope for the future, it is precisely music,” says Alfredo Caxaj, Co-Artistic Director of SUNFEST, hosted in London, Ontario, Canada.

“I truly believe that after we overcome this difficult period, people will be eager to attend concerts at different venues and festivals. I think that will be the period when artistes will be fully compensated for their creativity,” he observes.

“Please, hang in there! All of us are together in this struggle,” Alfredo signs off.
Edited by Anju Narayanan


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