The new musical experience of the diaspora
The bass is strong and every time the beat drops, the sound waves ripple through the audience and the sea of spectators moves like a unibody organism swimming in the soundscape. Clusters of women slowly emerge and dot the perimeter of the room. They travel in packs to escape the grim pasture of unwanted strangers. It’s a number security ploy.
I make my way through the crowd to the Green Room to have a conversation I dread having with an event planner, headliner, music director, or executive. It’s usually an exchange that I’m never comfortable with. More often than not, it’s the trickle-down effect of immoral music leaders. When misogyny, sexual misconduct, and abuse of power dictate the standards by which artists must learn to operate, it’s no surprise that the entire audience experience becomes contaminated.
Artists and industry professionals shouldn’t have to put up with the industry’s macabre tropes. But navigating the music industry often means traversing demeaning, exploitative, and downright predatory behavior from those who hold the keys to success.
How did unprofessional environments, harassment and sexual exploitation become endemic? In fact, you’d probably be hard-pressed to find a young artist/music professional who didn’t experience some form of abuse early in their career. And this fact is especially true for artists of color.
Therefore, it is crucial to recognize and support inclusive spaces where the safety of artists, audiences and workers is a priority. In doing so, we are starting a collective movement that takes away the power of predatory guardians by taking away our support and, more importantly, our attention. For this reason, we’ve compiled a list of upcoming event and show producers who consider entertainment, safety, and inclusivity. seriously. Great music, great dancing, and a zero-tolerance policy for predatory behavior…and the vibes are ELITE.
After years of traversing substandard experiences for South Asian artists, we have begun to find, and even create, spaces that foster a sonic community suspended in boundless joy.
1) No Nazar LA
Photo credit: Rattan Prakash Singh
No Nazar LA is a nonprofit collective started by creative directors and DJs Malinder, Bianca and Omar, three creatives with a long history of pioneering global sounds, inclusivity and high-quality music experiences. The trio have cultivated environments that incorporate their varied backgrounds and platforms that garner support from communities near and far. Their edits, visual identities, and intentionalities are clear in every aspect of their events, and the music is… well, you don’t want to miss it. The collective recently played Hollywood Pride as the first South Asian team and got all of Vancouver dancing for Pride at 5XFest at Beaumont Studios. Having toured with the most famous musicians and traveled the world as a Dholi, Malinder shares the imperative mission of supporting other communities, cultures and musical experiences with the goal of uplifting everyone, together. From Los Angeles to the world, there’s no party like a No Nazar party.
Dialledin, based in the UK, is an arts and culture festival that embodies innovation and inclusivity. Dialledin’s commitment to high quality art experiences is unlike any other. From venue selection to local promotion of diverse South Asian talent, their commitment is evident in every carefully curated event and property. I had the privilege of attending the Dialledin April Festival at Hackney’s Earth venue earlier this year and it’s safe to say that in an age where representation is commercialized and internet echo chambers rule in master, Dialledin’s physical and digital experiences are second to none. The energy, authenticity and non-judgmental environment create unblemished musical bliss. The collective just wrapped up their Boiler Room Pakistan experience, their latest festival featuring amazing artists like Anoushka Shankar, Jitwam, Nabihah Iqbal and other BGM favorites like DJ Manaraaa and more. You might want to head to the UK for their upcoming festival on September 10 in London.
Photo credit: Anand Mohapatra
Previously known as the “Vancouver International Bhangra Competition”, 5Xfest has since grown into a must-attend South Asian festival showcasing Canadian and global talent in Vancouver, BC. The week-long festival spans genres, communities and locations across Surrey and Van. The festival employs young creatives from the region itself while partnering with local venues, production companies and talent that reflect their values: good music and an inclusive vibe. This year’s festival included 5X Blockparty, 5X Artparty, 5X Podcasts, a Secret Warehouse Party and 5X Pride! Creative Director Tarun Nayar and Managing Director Harpo Mander, along with the entire team, are redefining what it means to create large-scale experiences that entertain and secure audiences. This year’s performances included Rehma, Shreea, AR Paisley, Raaginder, Khanvict, Harleen, Intenze, Hark, Peak, Raaginder, Ajay, Tesher, Avanti Nagral, Jasmine Sandlas and interactive art installations like Tarun’s Plant Music and the multi-sensory art by Sahil Mroke. Gallery. Head to Van for 5X next year, then stay for the view!
Now in its 16th year, Desifest showcases South Asian talent at Toronto’s Yonge Dundas Square. Run by Sats B, Desifest is designed to showcase the different languages, backgrounds and styles of South Asian artists and music. The 11am show ranges from classic Carnatic, Hindustani and Bangladeshi styles to classics like Raghav, Deep Jandu and everything in between. The festival attracts nearly 10,000 people and passers-by, providing large-scale exposure to a community that might otherwise never be exposed to our art. Desifest also prioritizes the platform of local and up-and-coming talent with the aim of helping them learn about festival settings, production and how to engage with large audiences! The festival is free, fun and in one of the biggest music cities in the world, the six.
5) Summerstage with DJ Rekha
DJ Rekha’s commitment to creating spaces that were truly for people by people is evident in every project. From 20 years of Basement Bhangra to Ronak and their time teaching music and curating, many South Asian artists have experienced their first stage with DJ Rekha.
The monthly 20-year party may have ended in 2017, but DJ Rekha and I are celebrating Basement Bhangra’s 25th birthday at Summerstage in Central Park on August 6, 2022 at 2 p.m. in New York City. A free event featuring Jasmine Sandlas, Red Baraat, DJ Rekha, Raaginder, Ganavay, Dave Sharma, Zeemuffin, DJ Ushka, Rajuju Brown, Sikh Knowledge and last but not least, Ajna Dance, this one is worth responding to here.
Basement Bhangra 25th Birthday Bash: DJ Rekha / Jasmine Sandlas / Red Baraat / Ganavya / Raaginder / David Sharma / Sikh Knowledge / DJ Ushka / ZEEMUFFIN / Ajna Dance / Rajuju Brown
The idea that good music and safe spaces cannot co-exist is fabricated and false. The incredible curators above are receiving global accolades and awards and have audiences near and far desperate to experience sonic, safe joy.
As we grow in the entertainment business, we implore you to think critically, have preferences, and maintain high standards. Don’t look for those who claim “first/few of many/only”, but those who promote “everyone/always/more than”.
As always, our art and our artists cannot grow unless we:
- pay them fairly
- reserve them officially
- share their hard work
Stay tuned for part two as we have more events you’ll want to save to your calendar. Do you have an event that you like to attend or that you are organizing? Direct message me (Jashima Wadehra) to @jashimaw on Instagram.