Sangam 2021(Feb 20 – March 13) curates cutting-edge multi form South Asian performances

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Photo- Hyden Golder

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 15 February 2021: Now in its third year, Sangam is an exciting platform for emerging and established South Asian-Australian artists to learn, create and showcase art alongside globally renowned artists from the South Asian Diaspora. Over four jam-packed weekends, from February 20 to March 13, and across four venues – Abbotsford Convent, The Drum Theatre, Bunjil Place, and Dancehouse – this year’s festival features more than 100 artists in a remarkable array of music, dance, spoken word, comedy, classical and experimental performances and conversations. Sangam is presented in partnership with MAV and guided by BlakDance.

Sangam is inspired, curated & directed by its three Artistic Directors: performer/choreographer/writer Dr. Priya Srinivasan; composer and multi-instrumentalist Hari Sivanesan; and singer, composer, and teacher Uthra Vijay. Sangam was born from the need to provide emerging and mid-career South Asian artists spaces and support in mainstream venues and projects while creating cutting-edge, classically based, contemporary, and experimental multiform South Asian work.

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Photo- MAV

Dr. Priya Srinivasan says, “My life trajectory began here in Melbourne as an artist and child of Indian migrants growing up in Naarm/Melbourne, performing extensively as a young dancer in mainstream arts spaces. I returned to Melbourne after a long hiatus overseas to discover that the art scene had regressed here. There was very little diversity on mainstream stages, and everything seemed to be divided. South Asian arts were labeled “community arts” and relegated to the margins both literally and metaphorically with artists performing in suburbs, high schools, and community centers in the periphery of our city”.

“I was born and brought up in London. I still remember my first week here googling the venues in Melbourne to see what shows we could take in and being jolted by the fact that the landscape here was SO different from what I was used to be back in London. Was this a place where I wanted my children to grow up… in a climate that lacked representation and the opportunities that existed back home in the UK?”, says Hari Sivansen.

Highlights of this year’s festival include:

Dada Desi (Feb 20): combining the spirit of Dada and the connection to ‘desi’ (land in Hindi SANGAM’s opening night event combines comedy, stand-up, spoken word, film, classical and experimental music and dance in one line up MC’d by award-winning writer, comedian and performance-maker Vidya Rajan, and curated by Sunanda, a Delhi-born, Bangkok-raised producer, comedian and writer who has produced festivals, concerts and films in New York and Los Angeles and more, before moving to Melbourne last year.

Earth Matters (Feb 27): Earth matters is conceived as a walking tour between 3 sites in Dandenong including drum theatre, harmony square, and parking lot of Walker street gallery. Audiences experience sights and sounds of classical South Asia through a sample of the many forms that are a rich part of South Asian history. Dandenong the home to so many south Asians now reflects that diversity in this special show.

New Homes (March 6): the presentation of two new classical contemporary works by Hari Sivanesan and Uthra Vijay that focus on displacement and the creation of new homes as migrants.
New Homes 1, composed by Hari Sivanesan, and inspired by his work with the late Ravi Shankar is a ground-breaking musical work written for a classical string quartet in the style/structure of a Western quartet whilst adhering to the austere classicism of the Carnatic (South Indian) genre. Featuring the Sarod, (17 stringed plucked lutes), Taus (28 stringed, fretted, bowed lute), Veena (6 stringed lutes), and Double Bass. New Homes 2, composed by singer, teacher, and composer Uthra Vijay is a Carnatic choral work performed by an 8 member female choir accompanied by 3 instruments. The work, which speaks to the Earth and climate change, brings together voice, percussion and instrumentals. They work across the four movements in a unique blend.

The Flowering Tree (March 6): an ensemble multi-artform project that is the culmination of “South Asian Arts Pathways”, a nine-month program for nine exceptional classically-trained emerging artists from Melbourne’s South East region to professionalise and develop new work. The artists have adapted a 1000-year-old Indian folk tale about a woman turning into a tree into a contemporary and experimental work incorporating contemporary issues including climate change, Covid 19 and violence against women. See more about The Flowering Tree here: https://vimeo.com/451737648/93a0eba0c0

Dancehouse Dance Commissions (Thursday March 11, Friday March 12, Sat March 13):
Two triple bill shows, each featuring three extraordinary performances including stellar international and local artists on three evenings. Both classical and contemporary South Asian dance will be seen at Dancehouse, the premier space for contemporary dance in Australia. Choreographer /performers include Raina Peterson who draws on their training in mohiniyattam (classical dance of Kerala, India) to create experimental works exploring gender, sexuality, spirituality and time; Rukshikaa Shyama whose Amma: The Loss of our Motherland is based on the Tamil Eelam liberation struggles in Sri Lanka; Sasidharan Elankumaran whose work focuses on the migrant emotional and political struggle to ‘belong’; and Kasi Aysola and Sooraj Subramaniam, based in Philadelphia and Ghent respectively, who are both presenting works via video.

“The first iteration of Sangam brought together artists many of whom had not met each other before. It created a meeting based on the platform we had created to bring the classical, contemporary, experimental, theatre, dance, music, spoken word, comedy all on the same platform and united the wide community of artists together. It also offered a third space for many young artists like myself who had not reconciled their binary identity of being both South Asian and Australian with a stage to question, discuss, dialogue, and share with like-minded artists and audiences who could identify with many of these issues. As we present this third SANGAM Festival, we know there is still much more work to be done and this is only the beginning, but we are most heartened to see the support for South Asian arts growing and thriving along with our partner venues and supporting organizations.”, says Dr. Priya Srinivasan.

Sangam is a platform for established and emerging South Asian-Australian artists to learn, create and showcase their art alongside globally renowned artists from the South Asian Diaspora. Based in Naarm/ Melbourne on unceded land, Sangam acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land, the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung peoples.

For more information and bookings: https://sangam.com.au/

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