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21 August 2019

Soundlands: art music in the suburbs

A new concert series


Zela Margossian Quintet performs at the Bankstown Arts Centre on Sunday 25 August. Image: Zela Margossian Quintet performs at the Bankstown Arts Centre on Sunday 25 August.  

Kiri Koubaroulis writes about a new concert series, Soundlands, at the Bankstown Arts Centre, highlighing art music from the rich non-Western cultures and traditions that form an important part of our multicultural nation. The first event in the series, featuring the Zela Margossian Quintet, takes place on Sunday 25 August.

The experience of growing up as a first-generation Australian, navigating two cultures and occupying the liminal spaces of belonging and unbelonging in between, is really what set me on the path of wanting to centre culturally diverse artists and art-forms in the work I do. I use the word diverse out of necessity here, because although diverse can mean 'many, varied, plural' it is often understood as 'other, different, marginal' and consequently further minoritises the subject it is being used to describe.

It is this marginalisation, this minoritisation, that the 'Soundlands: art music in the suburbs' series seeks to respond to. The series aims to highlight high quality art music, but from diverse, non-Western, cultures - cultures that are an integral part of our fabric as a society and our contemporary story as a multicultural nation.

Sometimes non-Western music has found a sympathetic friend in jazz - for obvious reasons. Jazz scales, for example, can be an 'in' to modes that sit outside of the Western major/minor dominant tonalities. And the culture of improvisation inherent in jazz as well as many non-Western music forms lends itself well to collaboration across genres. But beyond finding some sympathy in the jazz world, non-Western music forms and the artists practicing them in Australia are often placed in the 'community arts and cultural development' basket, invited to perform at cultural festivals or community-based events, but rarely enjoying the standalone prominence they deserve on our mainstream stages and in our key arts venues. This is the narrative that Soundlands is attempting to challenge.

Co-produced with Bankstown Arts Centre, the series consists of four concerts taking place on the last Sunday of the months of August, September, October and November at Bankstown Arts Centre. With Bankstown being perhaps the most culturally diverse suburb of Sydney, it was a natural choice for the series - a 'homeground' of sorts.

The artists featured include: Zela Margossian with her quintet performing original compositions that draw from Zela's Armenian musical heritage; the Iraqi Folk Fusion Ensemble, led by master violinist and former member of the Baghdad Symphony, Imad Rahem; the internationally renowned Sydney-based Satsuki Odamura Koto Ensemble; and an extended ensemble of Western-Sydney based musicians led by Ustad Sayd Sarshar performing Afghan songs and Indian classical music. Each concert will be followed by an artist Q and A, where audiences will get a chance to talk directly with the artists and learn more about their work.

This first series of Soundlands was made possible through the assistance of the Australia Council for the Arts and through the partnership with Bankstown Arts Centre. Resourcing a series like this is always a challenge, but I hope to see Soundlands continue as an annual series at Bankstown Arts Centre. I also hope to see other venues program and produce more music of this nature as part of their core offerings. More importantly though, I'd love to see diversity (as in 'many, varied, plural') centred in our cultural conversations and our collective cultural conscious - so that our stages and arts spaces truly reflect the plurality of our lived experiences.

Further links

Soundlands Concert 1 on Sunday 25 August (Zela Margossian Quintet) - event details in the AMC Calendar

Soundlands: art music in the suburbs - https://cb.city/soundlands


Kiri is a Sydney-based creative producer and arts writer. She has worked in diverse roles in the creative industries, and her biggest love is contemporary Australian music in all its forms. Working for organisations such as Diversity Arts Australia, Ensemble Offspring, Cumberland Council’s Peacock Gallery and Arts Studio, Merrigong Theatre Company, and social change organisation, All Together Now, she’s garnered experience in producing, marketing and communications, community engagement, and research and project management. As an independent producer she's presented concerts, cultural workshops, children's music and storytelling shows. Her writings can be read on the Cultural Omnivore Blog, among others. Kiri holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of NSW and a Graduate Diploma in Creative and Cultural Industries Management from the University of Technology, Sydney.


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