CHENNAI: Digital monetisation, cross-cultural collaborations, virtual gigs and album releases, community engagements, partnerships and brand building, exploring streaming platforms and so on. The year 2020 has been a game-changer for the independent music industry on many fronts. Changing landscape and trends notwithstanding, the indie scene proved its resilience by seamlessly turning every adversity that came its way into an opportunity. But, is this sufficient to sustain in the long-run?
Collaborate to contribute
Coming up with creative solutions, one episode at a time, is Madras Medai Podcast. It’s an extension of the Madras Medai Project (2018), a Tamil, multi-genre music festival which celebrates equality through music. Supported by the British Council, the podcast series that kicked off on July 30 promises to enable knowledge exchange between renowned Tamil and UK artistes and to discuss the current state of the independent music and arts ecosystem in south India, with a deeper focus on the musical landscape of Chennai.
Speaking on the collaboration, Jonathan Kennedy, Director Arts India, British Council, says, “We’d planned for the first Madras Medai Expo — a two-day live gathering of independent artistes — in March 2020, but it got postponed due to the pandemic. As an organisation, we’ve stayed committed to creating more opportunities for emerging artistes within the music ecosystem. Over the last year too, there was a strong collaborative curatorial process that included looking at the current gaps and issues within the sector, and identifying artistes and industry leaders across Chennai, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the UK, who were addressing some of these in their work. The podcast, conceived in early 2021, was a result of it.”
Divided into six episodes, the podcast features renowned artistes sharing their insights on varied topics such as innovative methods to collaborate and co-exist as artistes, understanding the economy, the importance of imagining and creating spaces that present a future that is inclusive and diverse, and other important aspects related to the music landscape, which will help the younger generation and budding artistes get in-depth information about the music industry. It aims to act as a gateway to empower emerging artistes within the music ecosystem and help them explore new opportunities.
The podcasts are hosted by ofRo and Tenma, music producers and co-founders of Madras Medai, along with music producer and new media entrepreneur Tejas Nair aka Spryk. Sharing his experience, Tenma says, “Podcasts have a great possibility to reach various places. We are in a time of OTTs, digital transfers and home concerts. Through this pandemic, we have seen performances of various indigenous groups and small indie bands reaching directly towards their audiences from different sections of the audience. The majority of the audiences and artistes from villages to small towns have access to the Internet and the thirst for information has drastically increased. Taking all of these into consideration, I think we are in the process of bridging the gap. Madras Medai Podcast will act as one such catalyst for bringing people together.”
A diverse approach
Besides Indian artistes, the episodes feature international musicians such as Gareth Bonello (The Gentle Good), Sarah Jones (Focus Wales), Charlotte Dryden (Oh Yeah Music Centre) and Chris Cooke, (CMU), who will speak about various aspects of music production including business remodelling in the new climate, collaborative productions, strategies for effective audience outreach and more.
Offering us a glimpse of Transitioning Afresh, an episode that has Gareth Bonello and Tenma in conversation, Gareth shares, “Tenma and I had a wide-ranging discussion about the challenges facing artists and their communities due to the pandemic. We discuss new ways of remaining creative and collaborating in a period where live performing and even jamming disappeared overnight. We’re both passionate about helping artistes in our communities, and Tenma talks about his inspirational ‘Funds for Folk’ fundraiser for disadvantaged artistes. We look at the way the pandemic has highlighted issues already present in the music industry in both India and the UK and how we can learn from our experiences to build a fairer future for artistes.”
One of the episodes from the pilot series that addresses a pressing topic is Designing Community Spaces, featuring Ratheesh, head of Experiments & New Ventures at SPI Cinemas, Tenma and Charlotte Dryden. It touches upon the need to build future spaces for the arts, by keeping the community in mind. It can help navigate the challenges of discrimination and address the lack of opportunities for marginalised communities. To ease the level of understanding, the last episode offers a recap of the series, addressing the key points discussed through the episodes.
Given that the lockdown has veered many to start consuming audio content through podcasts and other mediums, the team is optimistic that the series will reach a wider audience, especially the young musicians. “The underlying theme of the series is imagining a future of music that is more diverse yet inclusive. The series aims to be a pilot for now. and a means to engage audiences and artistes before the next live Madras Medai festival,” notes Jonathan.
Madras Medai Podcast is available on Spotify, Apple and all major audio streaming platforms for free.