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Musicians, Promoters and Media Dissect Indian Indie’s Gender Problem

Singer-songwriter Ankur Tewari and harpist Nush Lewis will also perform at the panel discussion in Mumbai this week

Rolling Stone India
Rolling Stone India Jun 01, 2018

Aditi Ramesh. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

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In the year that is being called Beychella – for that top-notch performance from Beyoncé at California’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April – Mumbai journalist Amit Gurbaxani says Indian music festivals and concert promoters “cannot afford to ignore” the gender skew in their programming.

He says, “We’ve had Imogen Heap and Anoushka Shankar headline [Bacardi NH7] Weekender but there’s been little else. I’m fairly confident that somebody like Lorde, who is touring this year, would draw thousands of fans to an Indian music festival.” Gurbaxani will moderate a panel discussion on June 3rd at WeWork, Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai, as part of social networking platform Dysco and gender-centric platform MIXX’s event Mind the Gap.

Amongst sessions which include athletes, actors, filmmakers and social entrepreneurs, the music panel will address gender representation in the circuit and at music festivals. Speakers include New Delhi electro-pop singer-composer Tarana Marwah aka Komorebi, Mumbai-based singer-composer Aditi Ramesh, Red Bull India’s national culture manager Shilpi Gupta, Bacardi NH7 Weekender festival head Supreet Kaur and musician-entrepreneur Ashutosh Phatak, co-founder of the True School of Music and venues such as The Quarter.

Marwah says she’d like to talk about the “genderization of music” and misconceptions around representation of gender. She says, “How women are treated on ground and represented on paper are both equally important. However, I feel if we can aim at asking the right questions, then perhaps journalists – or anyone influential on social media for that matter – have a big responsibility in helping shape minds.”

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Aditi Ramesh, who recently went on tour with her band Ladies Compartment, wants to ask about why female musicians aren’t encouraged more in the country. “A lot of the time, people might see an all-girl band and hold them to a lower standard. The standard should be the same, that’s why we keep pushing ourselves to change the perception,” she says.

One of the reasons for putting together Ladies Compartment – which comprises Ramesh on vocals and keys and singer-musicians such as Ramya Pothuri on guitar, Nandita V on bass and Aarifah Rebello on drums – was to “encourage more girls to pick up instruments.” Ramesh adds, “It’s been the perception that women sing and male instrumentalists hold the music together but female instrumentalists aren’t always taken seriously enough. The only way we can break these stereotypes is by getting more woman musicians out there and by continually improving our musicality and playing.”

Specific topics that will be raised for discussion, according to Gurbaxani, include “why the indie scene continues to be male-dominated, why women get associated with a certain sound and the like.” The day-long event also includes performances by Mumbai singer-songwriter Ankur Tewari and harpist Nush Lewis, who is also the co-founder of OffSet Live, which supports music education and development.

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Event details here. Buy tickets here.

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