From fruit vendors chanting their maracuyeah-hawking anthem, to el maestro Rubén Blades opening a set in Plaza Simon Bolívar with the classic “Chica Plástica” to a cross-generation crowd of thousands, to street performers dancing puppets to reggaetón, or outdoor salsa classes on Sundays for all sorts of urban fauna (see video below): music often appears in unpredictable, public moments to build an uninterrupted, buzzing soundscape across Bogotá.
Take an auto rickshaw up the Eastern Freeway to Vikhroli, a semi-industrial Mumbai suburb that receives virtually no “cred” from the city’s cultural elite. There, beneath the smoke stacks of Godrej’s industrial compound, you’ll find a beautiful, green campus of office buildings. Inside the campus nonchalantly stands a state-of-the-art “Lab” and performance space that has, in the two years of its existence, quickly become one of Mumbai’s foremost destinations for art, music, and culture.
The Godrej India Culture Lab, as it is called, curates events of all shapes and sizes, most of which are free and open to the general public. The events include a monthly “Friday Funda” speaker and performer series, Film and Book Clubs with filmmakers and authors, as well as “PopUp” mini conferences featuring INK and film festivals like the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. On July 19th, 2013, I had the fortune of being able to present my first “Work-In-Progress” screening of my Fulbright-mtvU documentary. You check out the video of my presentation on the following Fulbright-mtvU blog entry. But, for now, take a closer look at the Lab through a video I made featuring Parmesh Shahani, the Lab’s founder/director, and Frazan Kotwal, one of the Lab’s featured guests:
The first thing you notice about Old Naledi, a neighborhood in Gaborone, is the sheer number of children. Everywhere you look, kids sprint carelessly across the street, play with makeshift toys or sit on corners watching the day go by.
While the artistic team worked around the neighborhood to paint tuck shops (see previous blog post), Arts for Change was also working directly with the youth of Old Naledi to impart artistic skills and to show how the arts can be used in sustainable careers.
All the emcees, poets and artists I have interviewed share one sentiment in common: the powers that be—government agencies, schools, parents—do not give the arts the attention and respect they deserve. As a result, children tend to regard the arts as a hobby and pursue careers in more “respectable” fields like accounting or law.
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On July 19th, 2013, at the Godrej India Culture Lab in Mumbai, I had the amazing opportunity of presenting my first work-in-progress screening of my Fulbright-mtvU documentary. In front of a full audience of filmmakers, academics, musicians, and Godrej company employees, I shared videos, my experiences on the filming process, and some illuminating academic theory that would make my PhD program advisor proud. The presentation was also capped by the incredibly accomplished singer-songwriter Alisha Pais, whose talents have brought her on tours throughout India.
Below is a recap of the presentation, including the music concert, which will be posted on the Culture Lab events webpage (http://indiaculturelab.org/events/). The video is edited minimally combining footage from the Godrej India Culture Lab’s cameras and myself:
…. and the talented Alisha Pais:
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