South Asian Women, Trans, Nonbinary And Gender-Fluid Artists Release Compilation Supporting Punjab’s Farming Communities

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There’s something that works particularly well when music becomes the medium of voicing one’s angst. And angst where it is justified, can do wonders in metaphorically moving mountains. As a queer South Asian artist myself, it has been heartening to see growing support in various artist niches. This is where the latest compilation by Sub(Continental) Sonic Arts comes in.

Sub(continental) Sonic Arts is a celebration of South Asian women, trans, nonbinary and/or gender fluid sonic artists. Vol 1 – Inquilab features music written, performed, composed and produced by South Asian women, trans, nonbinary and/or gender fluid sonic artists. From the Subcontinent to the diaspora across the globe, it spans across genres and fields in the music industry: film scoring, spoken word, lo-fi, electronica, pop, vocals, carnatic fusion, jazz, hip-hop, R&B, sound design, EDM, and more.

Intersectionality is the way to a more inclusive future. Keeping this in mind, the compilation also contributes to the farmers’ protest in India. All proceeds will be donated to Sahaita, a NGO that provides financial and educational assistance to farming communities in Punjab, in full support of the ongoing farmers’ protest against the Indian Central Government’s 2020 Farm Laws and the families leading the revolution on the frontlines. To offset the cost of producing an artistic work, each artist fully owns their own track, but has agreed to have the sales from this project be donated to Sahaita. Neither the artist nor the Sub(continental) Sonic Arts team will receive any monetary compensation from purchases made on this compilation. A donation receipt will be shared with supporters and artists on a monthly basis.

We spoke with the person behind Sub(Continental) Sonic Arts, Krithi Rao, to understand what led to the creation of this compilation. She and her long time collaborator, Lakhpreet Kaur, an Austin-based photographer and founder of Kaur Life, thought it would be a great idea to use this compilation to highlight South Asian women, trans, nonbinary and gender fluid producers, who have been actively supporting the farmers’ protests in India. The ideology is to present a volume of music by South Asian creatives who cover a variety of genres and fields in the music industry. From a film score to lofi, and spoken word to punk, they wanted to showcase how diverse they are, and that they can’t be pigeon-holed into a specific genre or field (read Bollywood or singing only).

The compilation, in the truest sense of the word, is a collective. It wasn’t a process of selecting who to be on the album, because that would inherently defeat the purpose of being inclusive. Instead, Krithi and Lakhpreet opened it up to the general public and whoever ended up filling out the form was featured. As a consequence of I think how the call-for-artists post was announced and distributed on IG (timing was EST, distributed to communities in North America and the UK, etc.), the compilation features artists of South Asian descent who don’t necessarily live in the subcontinent. Krithi says, “For future compilations, we’ll definitely be sure to do more outreach in online communities that emphasize artists living in the Subcontinent.”

The compilation has come out really well. One of the best parts of listening to a compilation is discovering artists you might not have heard before yet who you might gravitate towards by virtue of their sound or the purpose of their art. This compilation succeeds on the task of creating invisible networks where there weren’t any. Read through the bios of each artists here to understand how diverse the world is and how much power an artists wields when they stand for a cause.

Of her learnings and future plans, Krithi says “It was such an eye-opening experience for us, we were just so amazed at the number of people who wanted to submit to the compilation because of how passionately they support the farmers’ protests. One of the challenges was planning it within a month of the release date. We wanted to release it on Vaisakhi, and only reached out to artists in early March. For any upcoming compilations (which we would LOVE to release), we will be sure to plan well in advance + also consider sending out press releases in advance. (In the future, we will) release more compilations that support marginalized communities across the subcontinent. We understand that India is a hegemonic force in the region and we want to address any biases towards causes in the country. For future comps, we will actively focus on NGOs and organizations mobilizing communities in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives.”