Singing Resistance: A Musical Performance with Sumangala Damodaran

Outdoor musical performance co-presented with Spring Workshop
Sumangala Damodaran, along with Pritam Ghosal, Mark Aranha, Neelambari Bhattacharya, Billy from 'mininoise', a grassroots folk band in Hong Kong, and Simon Hui from the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble, performed a concert featuring songs from India's anti-colonial and immediate post-colonial resistance movement. The songs, in six Indian languages, have been archived and interpreted by Damodaran, and belong to the tradition of the Indian People's Theatre Association. The songs cover important historical events like the Second World War and the Bengal Famine, and reflect impulses and influences from various Indian, world musical, and poetry traditions. 

In addition, the programme incorporated songs of protest from Hong Kong as we considered the universality of song as an expression of resistance.
The concert also featured an introduction to a new project that Damodaran is involved in, which maps a family of melodies that were sung to express lament, separation, migration, and loss across large parts of Asia, Africa, and Southern Europe from the 7th to the 14th centuries.

Performance photography: Dave Choi.

About the Performers
Sumangala Damodaran is an economist and musician working at Ambedkar University, Delhi, India. She holds a PhD in Economics and after a 17-year teaching career at Delhi University’s Lady Shri Ram College, is involved with setting up the School of Culture and Creative Expressions at Ambedkar University, Delhi, a unique interdisciplinary arts education and practice initiative. She is also a performer and composer trained in the Indian Carnatic and Hindustani classical music traditions and the Bel Canto style of Opera for voice. In 2014, Damodaran completed ‘Insurrections,’ a poetry-music collaborative project between Indian and South African poets and musicians.
Pritam Ghosal started playing the sarod at the age of 14 and later received formal training from guru Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. He has worked and toured extensively with Sufi scholar and singer Madan Gopal Singh as part of his ‘Char Yaar’ group. A composer, improviser, and soloist, he is at home with both classical and contemporary music. He has collaborated with flamenco, belly dance, and kathak artists in Germany and is also part of the experimental Indian-Belgian trio with eminent bassist Peter Lenearts and percussionist Suchet Malhotra. Pritam recently collaborated with Damodaran on ‘Insurrections.’
Mark Aranha is a versatile Delhi-based guitarist and composer who plays an eclectic range of styles. Formerly a marketing professional, his passion for music led him to the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music where he studied under several great jazz musicians, including Prasanna, Jason Lindner, Rubens de la Corte, Ofer Ganor, Ed DeGenaro, Panagiotis Andreou, Magos Herrera and Benny Greb. Aranha has over 12 years of experience, including electric guitar and steel and nylon string acoustic guitar. He co-wrote and arranged music for Ditty & Mark and The Underknowns, which has received great acclaim.
Neelambari Bhattacharya, Sumangala Damodaran’s daughter, is a high school student at the Sardar Patel school in Delhi. She has trained in Hindustani music and is presently training in Western classical vocal music at the Delhi School of Music.

Billy was a member of the Hong Kong social movement band 'Noise Cooperative' 「噪音合作社」 before he organized the grassroots folk band 'mininoise' 「迷你噪音」.  He has worked as a social worker, in cultural studies, and as a freelancer in various NGOs and universities. In 1993, he began composing songs for social movements of workers and of housing rights, and now believes that small stories from the grass-root people embody elements of local socio-political art. This belief continues to influence his Cantonese pop, rock, and folk music.

Simon Hui has played double bass for twenty years in the Hong Kong Philharmonic. He was also principle bass player of the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong until 2013. He has been a member of the HK New Music Ensemble since 2009. He has also been active in the non-classical scene, and was a founding member of the jazz and world music influenced group Han Shan.

Mapping Asia is an unfolding publication, exhibition, and programme series presented by Asia Art Archive, that explores multiple vantage points from which to consider Asia, looking beyond inherited boundaries, histories, and political and economic systems to entanglements and connections across time, sites, and geographies.



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