One of those musicians was Afandi Siyo, an African migrant who felt he had left his musical heritage behind him until the Music Hive program enabled him to perform regularly again.
“I performed for Nelson Mandela when he came out to Australia after being released from prison,” he said. “It was a wonderful experience.”
Carmen Grostal believes that Australia is still in the unique position to be able to be enriched by the musical talents of recently arrived migrants and refugees. “New refugees open new musical possibilities. When musicians from different cultures come together, it’s something that becomes uniquely Australian then, [because of these influences] it’s the only opportunity [we have] to make new music in this country,” she said.
Music Hive: Revisited will reexamine the cross collaborative nature of music making today. One such ensemble set to perform at the Footscray Community Arts Centre is No Passport Required – an ensemble of musicians from India, Vietnam, El Salvador, Indonesia and Australia, performing traditional, contemporary and original tunes across each other’s musical heritages and languages.
Project Musical Director Duncan Foster believes that despite the fact that cross-collaboration is quite natural, it’s sometimes not an easy thing to convince people of its value.
“For all our multiculturalism, music is [still] a segmented practice in society – people are going to find it a lot easier to practise the music that shares the same repertoire or approach of their own culture. When they do share it with other people – the [process of creating music together] is often quite rushed, compared to the centuries of cultural development that proceeded it. Each musical style has its own protocols and it takes work to happen,” he said.
So is true cross-collaboration still a fringe exercise? Duncan Forster believes that while there are a lot of musicians interested in doing it, there is still a general lack of awareness in mainstream audiences about the opportunities to interact with different cultures.
“When you come across something that’s different or unusual to you – have a listen for what is there. There’s so much that we haven’t heard in our everyday life that’s worth hearing from other people – there’s so much to enjoy and to experience in it. After all, it’s a small world; we should be looking outside what we already know,” he said.
Parvyn Kaur Singh is the lead singer of No Passport Required as well as the popular Bollywood-inspired ensemble, The Bombay Royale. She believes that the mixing of musical cultures can be quite a seamless undertaking.
“There are so many similarities across cultures – you see how well they blend together. I want people to realise that it’s all the same – we are all trying to come to music and art from this place of love and to blend seamlessly and naturally together,” she said.
So how do musicians respond to the musical intersections (and clashes) that arise as a result of cross-collaboration? Parvyn Kaur Singh finds the process rather entertaining.
“It’s part of the fun of doing it [because] it’s ultimately about trying to relate to others. For instance, there are certain things that you’d do in Vietnamese music that you wouldn’t do in Indian music. I find it amusing to see those differences, overcome them and to accept them for what they are. No one is not right or wrong; it’s just how it is. The question is how can I learn from it.”
No Passport Required will perform on Saturday 30 August, 7:30pm as part of Music Hive: Revisited at the Footscray Community Arts Centre.