Musics of South Asia: a means for connecting communities?

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: School of Arts and Cultures

Abstract

The North East of England is home to numerous and diverse South Asian communities. These are defined by geographic origin (e.g. Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and the many regions within these areas), religion, and other social and historical factors. Within these communities music often plays a key, but complex role. It is an activity around which individuals build networks, and a medium through which communities make their culture audible to themselves and the wider community. Music's significance, though, may be double edged. It can be a vehicle through which to reach out to other communities; equally it may be a way of turning inwards - a symptom of resistance to connection, or an assertion of difference.

Communities (South Asian, other minority ethnic, and white) can come into meaningful contact through music and other arts - but how is this fostered, beyond the occasional public event? How can both the local and global significance of such cultural forms be communicated and understood beyond their ethnic origins, and how might these shape new imaginings of a society of multiple - and possibly multiply connecting - cultures?

The scoping study proposed here seeks to review existing bodies of literature germane to these and other questions, from such fields as ethnomusicology, urban musicology, cultural studies and sociology. It also draws on the expertise of organisations that already have much practical experience in representing and supporting South Asian and other minority ethnic communities. These include arts development organisations such as Gem Arts, Kalapremi, and Saarang - Arts and Culture, which, alongside The Sage Gateshead, a further Project Partner, have substantial experience of community engagement.

With a view to an eventual larger, practically engaged project (in effect a piece of interactive fieldwork), this review aims to scope out some of the key issues and essential methodologies - both interrogating the existing scholarly and theoretical literature, and drawing on the significant practical experience of arts oranisations whose concern is with (or includes) South Asian music. Our key research questions include:

* In what ways do South Asian musics act as a vehicle for articulating identity and for fostering and connecting communities - including connections with 'majority ethnic' society? (Conversely, how might musical differences reinforce cultural ones?)

* How could this potential be further developed, and what role could arts organisations and educational institutions play in this? How can organisations better interface with one another?

* What is the impact of such factors as class, religion, gender, race, ethnicity, and histories of migration in shaping communities, and in both facilitating and impeding connection between them?

* To what extent can music (and other art forms) serve to cut across such factors (and to what it extent might it reinforce them)?

* How, in these contexts, should we understand such terms as 'network' and 'community', and how might the one strengthen the other?

*To what extent are answers to the above relevant to other minority ethnic communities, and to broader understandings of multiculturalism?

In this investigation we will collaborate with arts development organisations by means of structured interviews and workshops. We will share our various types of expertise with the intention of further developing strategies for impact on - or, perhaps better, agency with - communities and groups who seek greater cultural and social connectivity through music and other arts. Our outputs, in addition to the literature review, will include conference presentations, at least two peer reviewed articles, and an action plan for future engagement between our own HEI, communities and arts organisations.

Planned Impact

Impact summary


WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM THIS RESEARCH?

* Arts organisations

* South Asian communities

* Society more widely

* Schools and school pupils


HOW WILL THEY BENEFIT FROM THIS RESEARCH?

Arts organisations will benefit from HE input, gaining more rigorous academic perspectives on their policy. Complementing this, the academy will benefit from improved engagement with organisations that have a strong track record of working with communities. Communities will benefit from improved connectedness between all the organisations. Importantly this will also strengthen connections between minority ethnic communities and the academy, helping to improve access to HE.

These improved connections will also foster public audibility of South Asian music making; give greater confidence to those making and promoting music, improve connections between music makers and audiences; and improve connections between different kinds of music makers.

Consultation with schools will help ascertain their needs in promoting understanding of musics of other cultures, hence increasing cultural understanding and well being more widely.


Mechanisms for achieving impact are discussed in the attached Pathways to Impact document.
 
Description 1. We scoped out the scale and distribution of South Asian communities in the Newcastle area at the time, using census data and gathering information from our arts organisation partners. We looked at the roles - actual and potential - that music and culture can play in the creation of communities and in connecting them. This research shows a much more complex picture of South Asian cultures in the region (with many micro-communities based not only on country, but also region of origin, profession and class) than is generally understood.

2. Our findings offer a corrective to media images of South Asian minority ethnic communities as often projected in the case of places such as Bradford or Tower Hamlets. We also offer a corrective to two contrasting but interconnected images of Newcastle: as a party city and as a centre of urban regeneration through mainstream culture. We show that the cultural and musical life of South Asian communities, often conducted privately or semi-privately suggests another Newcastle, another North East: a cultural multiplicity that is often ignored in the City and region's own representational imaginary.

3. Notwithstanding this we also show that issues of economic deprivation, which are particularly acute across the North East, affect minority ethnic communities too - perhaps with particular inflections. The arts and culture have a valuable ameliorative role to play here, as do arts organisations and higher education institutions. But these are of course not a substitute for a more favourable economic strategy for the region - ultimately a question of national polity.
4. On a theoretical level, we argue that notions of multiculturalism, while disparaged by various mainstream political leaders (usually right-leaning) remain salient, albeit that these need to be understood in more nuanced terms than those presented in the popular media, and considered in the light of alternative terms such as cosmopolitanism, interculturalism and transculturalism.
Exploitation Route They could be taken up by other academic researchers in working on communities, multiculturalism, and arts policy. They could also be taken up by arts development organisations and local councils.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/Funding-Opportunities/Research-funding/Connected-Communities/Scoping-studies-and-reviews/Documents/Music%20of%20South%20Asia.pdf
 
Description 1. Findings were disseminated (by request) at the Newcastle University International Development Conference 2013: 'Alternative Development' - a conference that featured speakers across cultural sectors, and that was also orientated towards a wide public. 2. We were able to provide evidence for case made by GemArts - one of our arts development organisation partners on this project - for an extension and enhancement of their funding as a portfolio organisation within Arts Council UK. The results of this bid were announced in 2014, and GemArts did indeed achieve a substantial increase in funding, thus enabling them to continue their outreach work with communities regionally, and in bringing asian artists to the UK to disseminate their work. This will help strengthen our own links as academics with wider community partnerships. 3. We have distributed hard copy outputs from the project at a recent performance event that itself was a collaborative venture between Newcastle University and a community collective focused on South Asian music.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Arts development organisations 
Organisation Gem Arts
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We brought the partners together, so facilitating knoweldge transfer. We also contributed specialist academic perspectives on the organisations' areas of work.
Collaborator Contribution They provided us with much local data, and with information about funding mechanisms for their own organisation, and about how questions of multiculturalism play out for them in very practical terms on the ground. We conducted several private structured interviews with their representatives, as well as convening a plenary seminar with them.
Impact David Clarke with Thomas Hodgson, 'South Asian musics, cultures and communities in Newcastle upon Tyne and the North East of England'.
 
Description Arts development organisations 
Organisation Kalapremi
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We brought the partners together, so facilitating knoweldge transfer. We also contributed specialist academic perspectives on the organisations' areas of work.
Collaborator Contribution They provided us with much local data, and with information about funding mechanisms for their own organisation, and about how questions of multiculturalism play out for them in very practical terms on the ground. We conducted several private structured interviews with their representatives, as well as convening a plenary seminar with them.
Impact David Clarke with Thomas Hodgson, 'South Asian musics, cultures and communities in Newcastle upon Tyne and the North East of England'.
 
Description Arts development organisations 
Organisation Saarang - Arts and Culture
Country India 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We brought the partners together, so facilitating knoweldge transfer. We also contributed specialist academic perspectives on the organisations' areas of work.
Collaborator Contribution They provided us with much local data, and with information about funding mechanisms for their own organisation, and about how questions of multiculturalism play out for them in very practical terms on the ground. We conducted several private structured interviews with their representatives, as well as convening a plenary seminar with them.
Impact David Clarke with Thomas Hodgson, 'South Asian musics, cultures and communities in Newcastle upon Tyne and the North East of England'.
 
Description Arts development organisations 
Organisation The Sage Gateshead
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We brought the partners together, so facilitating knoweldge transfer. We also contributed specialist academic perspectives on the organisations' areas of work.
Collaborator Contribution They provided us with much local data, and with information about funding mechanisms for their own organisation, and about how questions of multiculturalism play out for them in very practical terms on the ground. We conducted several private structured interviews with their representatives, as well as convening a plenary seminar with them.
Impact David Clarke with Thomas Hodgson, 'South Asian musics, cultures and communities in Newcastle upon Tyne and the North East of England'.
 
Description GemArts bid to Arts Council England Research Grants programme 
Organisation Gem Arts
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We worked as a the academic partner to GemArts on a bid to Arts Council England's Research Grants Programme 2015-18, rounds one and two. The bids were to conduct research on the impact of GemArts' South Asian music programmes at Sage Gateshead. The bid were unsuccessful, but the collaboration was a positive one, and relations between GemArts and Newcastle University remain good, with potential for further collaborations in future.
Collaborator Contribution We advised Gem Arts on the scope, aims, research methods, eventual outputs etc. of the bid, and wrote much of the documentation.
Impact N/A (grant application unsuccessful)
Start Year 2015
 
Description 'Indriya' - Indian Classical music performances combining University and local communities 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The University hosted three concerts of Indian music, variously featuring local professional and amatuer artists, international level performers, with age ranges including children, university students and adults. These took place in the University, but the particapants and audience comprised people from a ranage of communities and ethnicities, including South Asian and White.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Pre concert talks (Sage Gateshead) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact C. 30 people attended talk given by David Clarke on Indian music, as part of ongoing community engagement by and with GemArts, one of our arts development organisation collaborators on the AHRC scoping study.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://gemarts.org/whatson/events/264/riverside-ragas-vijay-rajput