British-Indian musician Soumik Dutta’s music series, Silent Spaces embodies message of systemic racism and mental health
For Sounds of Spaces, Soumik Datta has collaborated with 40 different artistes from diverse backgrounds
Back in 2020, just after the murder of George Floyd (African-American security officer), and the Black Lives Matter protests in the US, contemporary sarod maestro Soumik Datta, a Bengali-born British-Indian musician and composer scribbled a few lines of a poem on his Instagram account, which for him was an attempt to make sense of what was happening around the world — racism: something so disturbing, systemic and deep-rooted. A few months later, when standing in the empty hallways of the British Museum, among vast treasures, feeling the weight of colonial history weigh down upon him, Soumik returned to that poem, composed it and performed it in six episodes with a diverse community of musicians and dancers, hoping to reclaim iconic cultural spaces, performance halls and empty museums (left empty and bereft during the pandemic).
“After the events in Minneapolis, I’ve become acutely aware of my sense of privilege, the burden of being brown and how many of us are complicit in contributing to a society that supports race and colour bias. This is what we were trying to do in Silent Spaces,” explains Soumik, who was invited by American rapper Jay-Z to play at the Royal Albert Hall and subsequently performed with Beyoncé. And for Sounds of Spaces, he collaborated with 40 different artistes from diverse backgrounds.
“During the lockdown, all these artistes were at home, unable to work, to create or express. So, when we approached them with a ticket out of their isolation, the answer was a resounding yes,” says the musician, who recently won the British Council Commission for Climate Change Award to create a project titled Songs of the Earth which will be released in the run-up to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow in November this year.
For Songs of the Earth, the musician has collaborated with Indian illustrators Anjali Kamath and Sachin Bhatt to create an animated film that aims to disrupt, provoke and challenge the unacceptable wreckage of the planet’s environmental health through animation and contemporary music. Apart from composing the music, Soumik is scripting and directig the film which is set in the backdrop of the Sundarbans. “When British Council announced the award, I was already devising music and film projects about the environment and had already released an album Jangal — to raise awareness about the impact of deforestation with Sachin. I had a premonition of working together again, so I wasn’t surprised when we landed this award. ,” says the musician.
A quick listen to Soumik’s Silent Spaces creates an aura of calm energy interestingly juxtaposed with energetic sounds of protests amid introspective poetry. “Sometimes all we want is to feel we are part of something, so we laugh along to fit in and to belong. But love is endless, love resolves and the future is endless,” Soumik says on the track as the music plateaus in the background and you know, for sure, that this is a song for the ages.