Found Sound Nation, a U.S.-based music collective, has released a new collaborative album entitled Travelers, which features a host of Indian, Pakistani and American musicians performing together as the Dosti Music Project. The collective’s co-director, Christopher Marianetti, flew the South Asian musicians out to the U.S. for a couple of three-week-long recording stints in 2015 and 2016 in order to create the album.
The project was initiated with the specific goal in mind of bringing together musicians from two countries with contentious histories. The idea was to create an opportunity for the Indian and Pakistani musicians to meet and work together, which would not otherwise have been possible, due to border politics. The concept was born out of the fact that Found Sound Nation receives submissions from musicians all around the world for OneBeat, a global initiative pioneered by the collective that uses musical collaboration as a form of cultural diplomacy.
Read our interview with Marianetti below, where he discusses the importance of using Dosti as a model for larger scale institutions, the future of the project and why the American musicians involved sometimes felt left out of Dosti’s Indo-Pakistani rapport.
When was Found Sound Nation formed?
Found Sound Nation grew out of an art/music project in the Bronx between a group of young people and a collection of New York City-based artists and musicians. The first project came from a desire of mine to connect the music I was creating, while a graduate student in New York, with a broader group of people and for its impact to be felt more viscerally. We imagined the ’concert’ as a longer social form, a collection of works where sound is also a conduit for connecting people, healing and dreaming. After an initial two-year project I joined up with some friends of mine, Jeremy Thal and Elena Moon Park, co-founders, and we started creating work/projects as a collective, with Ricardo Nigaglioni, one the original Bronx project members, Nandi Plunkett and then other musicians and artists in New York and now the world.
When did the idea for the Dosti Music Project occur?
Dosti was a sort of natural extension of OneBeat in many ways. Every year for OneBeat we receive thousands of applications and we’ve always had particularly high numbers of talented people applying from both India and Pakistan. We had also been working with the U.S. Embassies in these two countries, which we realize have a complicated and tumultuous past, but also have such a wealth of shared culture and heritage. So we thought it would be a powerful example of our work to bring musicians together from places that, because of nationalist politics, would just not allow them the opportunity to meet. Fortunately the Embassy in Pakistan believed in this idea and we were able to make it happen. Our hope is that Dosti can model the kinds of institutions we urgently need to develop on larger scales.
How did you go about picking the artists for the project?
To find artists we hosted two open calls online (in 2015 and 2016) through our OneBeat networks that reached out to artists and fans in Pakistan, India and the U.S. We also had some of our Fellows go on scouting trips to more rural musical centers outside major urban areas (mostly in Pakistan) to audition musicians in person. We then spent about two to three months reviewing these applications, inviting older master artists to give feedback as well.
What was the experience like for the American artists involved?
Even though it feels problematic to me to summarize along national lines, I’ll say that sometimes, many times, the Americans weren’t always ‘in on’ the joke that had everyone laughing uproariously or aware of a particularly subtle musical cue. There is so much shared language and culture between Pakistanis and Indians, even Urdu and Hindi were so much closer than I had imagined. There was a lot that was said even without even saying anything, and there was a lot that had to be translated to the American side. On the other hand, for many of the Americans not so familiar with music from these regions of the world, it was an incredibly eye-opening experience.
What are your future plans for the Dosti Music Project?
We are currently planning and raising money for the next iteration of the project. If any of your readers believe in the mission of Dosti and want to get involved please reach out! I believe that music is a conduit for every human being. But music can also move through many channels and yield enormous influence in religious, social and political realms. As an artist, through our organization Found Sound Nation, I enjoy creating opportunities for music to exist both as a conduit for expression and creation and as something that moves through larger collective conduits, positively impacting our social and political structures.