Shaanti’s Eastern Electronic Festival Showcases Groundbreaking British Asian Artists

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14apr_Shaanti-Eastern-FestivalShaanti’s Eastern Electronic Festival 2014 is hitting the headlines as the must-see, cutting edge festival. It’s set to be bigger and more explosive this year, with a host of unique events. The electrifying festival takes Birmingham’s arts, music and culture scene by storm with exclusive events designed for a wide ranging audience, including music-lovers, the wider community and families.

The festival will introduce the latest sounds from the British Asian contemporary music scene to the mainstream arena. Empowering British Asian artists who use music as an expression of individuality, the festival features an eclectic mix of various genres, performers and instrumental experimentation. Seeking to abandon the practice of pigeonholing British Asian artists in stereotypical genres such as World Music, Bhangra and ‘Desi R‘n’B’, Shaanti’s Eastern Electronic Festival focuses on brand new contemporary and progressive music. The festival will feature a fantastic lineup of breakthrough artists, who are producing new music exclusively for the festival.

Now in its third year, the festival was created by award-winning events company, Shaanti. Established in 1999, the Midlands-based company works to promote British South-Asian contemporary culture in the UK. In line with Shaanti’s objective, Eastern Electronic is an exciting showcase of progressive music created by exclusively British Asian artists.

This year, the festival focuses on empowerment, which unites each of the events, be it to empower the community, young adults, contemporary music artists, new performers or even women in the music industry.

Sharnita K Athwal, Artistic Director and Curator of Shaanti’s Eastern Electronic Festival says,  “The theme of the festival this year is EMPOWERMENT, which weaves through all the events. Through EEF talks and workshops, visitors are encouraged to contribute their ideas and raise discussions on difficult topics. It is hoped that their participation will then inspire and empower them to find solutions. To foster this process through the festival makes it a very human experience, with potentially longer lasting effects. We are strong believers of using this festival to build our community and encourage individuals to strive for the best.  Our broader goal is to create the capacity for growth in the musical community at large. Increasing the margins for individual artists and bands provides an opportunity for the infrastructure of the music business to develop in Birmingham. We work with our partners to make sure the music we all love can continue to inspire future generations.”

The festival focuses on the following themes:

Empowering Women

Through EEF talks and workshops, visitors are encouraged to contribute their ideas and raise discussions on difficult topics like Muslim Women in Music (which will air on BBC West Midlands Radio 95.6 FM). This live debate has been inspired by last year’s news of Kashmir’s first all-female rock group Pragaash, who disbanded following threats from the community. The debate will address important questions such as; ‘Why is there a lack of Muslim women in music?’ and ‘Does Islam’s views on music prohibit women from engaging in the industry?’ The panel will comprise three influential women within the music industry; Radio Presenter and Music Historian DJ Ritu, artistic director of Sufi Punk Naz Koser and international award-winning songstress Shahin Badar. This debate is in partnership with BBC West Midlands, Midlands Masala, My World My Music t/a Sufi Punk.

Further supporting the female cause in the music industry, Shaanti’s Easten Electronic Festival will be hosting projects like I Am… An Artist. I Am a Woman. This online exhibition is a platform for women in music to demonstrate their talent and commitment to the women of the Eastern Electronic Festival community. This online digital exhibition encourages women to support each other in order to develop a strong community and solid future. Alongside this exhibition, EEF also presents a whole day Electronic Music Production Workshop that introduces British-Asian female artists to the basics of music production, creation and recording with international producers Tigerstyle. Both these events are in partnership with British Asian Women in Music.

The Taste & Liquor Sessions hit Birmingham’s chic Nuvo, with female Pakistani DJ and producer,Ninja headlining. Born in the ‘80s, Ninja is a DJ, race car driver and music producer who grew up in London but attributes the inspiration for her unique musical sound to her roots in Pakistan. Her productions have been played on dance-floors from Ibiza to East Africa since 2009 and just last year, she enjoyed successful residencies in Blue Marlin and Privilege in Ibiza.

Taste & Liquor Sessions will be held in partnership with Hed Kandi’s Worldwide Resident DJ, Stuart Ojelay performing with Ninja. Taste & Liquor Sessions is a new and exciting support platform for contemporary and electronic music, exploring the best music events around the region.

Sharnita continues, “The festival is designed to showcase the best of British Asian culture; we want to show that we have developed into a nation of high-achievers, championing a variety of sectors like music, politics and business. We want the festival to break British Asian stereotypes but at the same time highlight some of the best, undiscovered artists in thecontemporarymusic scene.”

Exhibitions and Celebrating British Asian Culture

The festival pays tribute to one of the first bands to break into the alternative music scene, the Asian Dub Foundation. The photographic exhibition documents the band’s most memorable and never-seen-before moments, all captured by renowned British photographer and visual artist Coco (Visionary Underground). As the official photographer for the Asian Dub Foundation, Coco has developed a unique relationship with the band and has ultimately been granted unprecedented access to ADF’s most intimate moments. This exhibition is supported by The Drum in Birmingham.

Shaanti’s Eastern Electronic Festival has also become a celebration of the progression of British Asian culture, with specific events encouraging this objective. Photographic exhibition Rivers of British Asian Blood features a collection of moving images of the influential people who have helped shape British Asian society. The exhibition also marks an inevitable social change in culture since Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech in 1968. Alongside this, there is also an online photographic exhibition, named A Baja For This Dance Archive, which pays tribute to the experiences of first-generation South Asian migrants who arrived in the UK from the 1960s.

A Baja For This Dance Archive will be supported by a music podcast; this playlist has been compiled based on the opinions of the South-Asian communities at temples, community centres, women’s groups and men’s social clubs across Birmingham. This podcast will be available as a free download on the festival’s website, to encourage families to share and discuss with family or friends to increased socialization.

Sharnita continues, “We want the festival to break British Asian stereotypes but at the same time challenge people’s perceptions of the British Asian music scene in a good way. The goal is to create new experiences for our growing community and develop their connection with groundbreaking projects that I hope continues for many years to come.”


Supporting Contemporary Music with New Music Commissions

Shaanti’s Eastern Electronic Festivaluniquely showcases a high quality line-up of performances on multiple platforms. Featuring plenty of inspired new-music performances, the festival boasts a fantastic line-up of progressive performersfor events such as Shaanti Presents New Music Live. This event will feature amazing contemporary artists, who have commissioned brand new music for the festival, including; Nathan ‘Flute Box’ Lee, The Clinic, Arun Ghosh, Sonic Boom featuring Surinder Sandhu, Jason Singh, Abrar Hafiz, Metalheadz and Exit Records music producer, AMIT and music producer My Panda Shall Fly.

The festival also features Champion Sound Live Present The Best Of British New Music Showcase, in partnership with Town Hall Symphony Hall. This music event has become a platform for the best unsigned and newly-signed talent.  The event features an exciting line up of artists performing live, exclusively for Shaanti. Kicking off the music extravaganza is singer Swaati who will be displaying her exquisite musical talents. Champion Sound Live Present The Best Of British New Music Showcase alsofeatures Indie-Folk band Maggie 8 and high-energy percussionist, Jon Sterckx. Each of the acts will partake in a post-show conversation, allowing the audience to gain an insight into their personal experiences in the music industry.

New Music Sunday is a platform for musicians and artists to gain credible experience in the industry and begin to take their work from the studio into the public eye. It is the perfect place for budding artists to promote their work as New Music Sunday nurtures emerging talent whilst also providing pastoral guidance to help them develop their skills and art.  Shaanti’s Eastern Electronic Festival has teamed up with BBC West Midlands Radio 95.6FM, Midlands Masala Show, to present New Music Sunday, which is a showcase of new music by artists at varied stages of their career.

The My Music Hero Remix Project will bring together top artists Steel Bangelz, Evo & RST,Ninja to sit alongside breakthrough artists LH1 and Vast, to reveal who has inspired them in the music industry and made them into the artists they are today. My Music Hero Remix Project explores how artists support, sustain and participate in launching other people’s work. The programme will also provide insight into review processes, whilst encouraging artists to think critically about their own work. Each remixed track will be available as a free download on the festival’s website.

Commenting on Eastern Electronic’s support of new music, Sharnita says: “Giving power to artists to create new music helps support, inspire and develop an independent music scene. These unique events have been designed through feedback and communication with the community to determine what gaps in the UK music scene needed to be filled. This tightly packed and stimulating programme of progressive artists will showcase the best new music live on the international arts scene.”

International Platforms

With the recent ban of YouTube in Pakistan, the festival felt it important to help support EDM artists overseas, and so is proud to present Electro-Stani – an online celebration of Pakistani Electronica. Born out of a need to break traditions, Pakistani Electronica continues to grow and will also be seen more in the mainstream. This event has been developed in partnership with the Pakistani DJ network to support the emergence of Pakistani DJs. EDM fans and lovers looking to experience something different would do well to check Electro-Stani out!

Offering Support to Regional Artists

Renowned for its extraordinary levels of diversity, Birmingham is becoming the perfect hub of burgeoning talent and cultural arts. In recognition of Birmingham’s newly regenerated cultural center, Shaanti’s Eastern Electronic Festival has successfully compiled a host of regional artists to perform at various musical events. Teaming up with Away2Canal, the Music By The Canal tour is the perfect place for the community to enjoy music by local artists, whilst enjoying the most scenic stretch of the Midland’s canal.  The enchanting boat trip celebrates three wonderful Midlands artists – Raju Mali, Alisha Yasmin Kadir and Amerah Saleh – who will be performing exciting new music commissions exclusively produced for the festival.

Competitions for New Artists

The festival has also become an arena for a new generation of musicians to present their music and talent. With initiatives such as, Discover and Unsigned Music Competition in partnership with UK Asian Music Awards and BBC West Midlands Radio 95.6 FMand New Beat-Generation DJ competition, in partnership with Fnoob Radio and Cuebase FM, it is the perfect place for new performers to present their music.

Sharnita continues, “Our broader goal is to create the capacity for growth in the musical community at large. Increasing the margins for individual artists and bands provides an opportunity for the infrastructure of the music business to develop, which is why our festival is so important for the industry. We work to make sure future generations remain inspired.”

Empowering The Community

The recent rise of Birmingham’s cultural quarter and levels of multiculturalism has increased the need for the establishment of events which promote community participation. Encouraging community cohesion through a mutual appreciation of new music and the arts, Shaanti’s Eastern Electronic Festivalhas produced a wide range of community based events.

The Bollygood Jollygood workshop is a Midlands tour lead by singer/songwriter Rita Morar and special guests. This workshop was designed to promote social engagement and well-being to older people through participation in musical activities through its outreach programme of workshops. Aiming to be an all-inclusive festival to each generation of the community, Bollygood Jollygoodoffers the opportunity for older residents to recapture their musical youth and unleash their musical talents by taking part in Bollywood sing-a-longs and playing instruments.

Further supporting community cohesion and promoting cultural diversity, Empowered Unity will gather a collection of photographs and videos from the residents and visitors of Birmingham. Empowered Unityis a celebration of Birmingham’s diverse community; participants will have their photograph taken and will be asked: ‘what does empowerment mean to you?’As a thank you for being a part of the project, each participant will receive a personal photo.  The photographs will also be submitted to Somecities, which will contribute to an extensive and authentic digital archive of life in Birmingham and will be available to view on the festival’s website.

Showing their support to every element of the community, Shaanti’s Eastern Electronic Festival is also proud to be part of Birmingham Gay Pride on Spring Bank Holiday Weekend. Joining in the Birmingham Gay Pride walk, Eastern Electronic is excited to present Eastern Pride – a walking group with a definite Eastern influence. The walking group will be packed with Bollywood and Bhangra dancers, dhol players, musicians, community arts and dance groups and much more.

The Empowerment Through Music workshops are a community-based outreach programme which gives young people access to music education. Teaming up with Yo Tabla, these specially designed workshops are free and accessible to the community, specifically targeting children’s local youth centres, special needs clubs and children’s wards in hospitals. The workshops are completely free and are taught by Yo-Tabla’s very own Rishii Chowdhury who will be giving exclusive Tabla tutorials and sharing his views on the health benefits of music.

Shaanti’s Eastern Electronic Festival believes that music is the perfect platform to connect parents and children. The festival’s Spring Jam Baby and Toddler Music Workshop has partnered with Sonia Sandhu’s Baby Sensory classes to create an ideal place for parents and children to bond over musical learning and play. Music is fundamental to a young child’s development; therefore the workshop is specially designed for babies and young children to nurture a lifetime love of music. Spring Jam offers a unique introduction to music with exciting themes and colourful instruments. Using a combination of original and traditional songs and rhymes, Spring Jam helps develop early communication skills as well as introduce new rhythms in a special Indian tabla class.

Shaanti TV presents the Eastern Electronic Music TV Show

As part of the festival, Shaanti have also launched the Eastern Electronic Music TV Show, which is the place for up-and-coming musicians to share their new music. From Electronic, Punk, Classical, Contemporary, Fusion, Nu-Jazz and Indi-Folk, the festival has searched the UK and the Midlands to present some of the most exciting young musicians creating the sounds of the future. The festival typically has its finger on the pulse of great breakout artists; so don’t miss Layla Tutt, Driving Lolita, Shammi Pithia, Sister Elements and more to discover a brand new UK sound. Wherever you are, get ready for the UK’s hottest television show, Shaanti’s Eastern Electronic Music Show every Friday night!

Shaanti’s EE Music TV Show not only supports artists in front of the camera, but also offers budding filmmakers an exclusive insight into television production. The brand new music show is staffed by a group of volunteers and British-Asian filmmakers who have been recruited to give aspiring young producers and students from Derby University the opportunity to train with professionals.

Shaanti’s Eastern Electronic Festival presents an unprecedented mix of both digital and offline events, designed to promote the best performers in contemporary music. The festival’s aim is to become a major cultural event in the international calendar which enables regional, national and international artists to create new work and showcase their best work, while encouraging visitors from around the UK and abroad to come to Birmingham.

For a full list of Shaanti’s Eastern Electronic Festival events, please visit the website:

Shaanti’s Eastern Electronic Festival takes place from Tuesday 6th May – Saturday 31st May 2014 in Birmingham.

Shaanti’s Eastern Electronic Festival is supported by Arts Council UK.

All events have been produced by Shaanti.

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