Shaanti is a company that centralises dialogues revolving around many of the ever-persistent inequalities. It is a company that has united over few thousand creatives working in the field since its initial launch as a monthly club night in Birmingham 1999, it is now a platform that provides access to countless examples of inspiring careers by diverse artists and provides certain means for exchange, collaboration, and collective action.
Having been an outstanding creative leader and producer for more than sixteen years, Shaanti and Shaanti 11 (their non-profit development division, launched in 2010) continues to play a leading part in advising and shaping policy for contemporary music, arts and culture. Their often-pioneering work is at all times coupled with a deeply developed ethos on multi-cultural Britain, equity, diversity and collaborative practices.
Shaanti 11 serves as a kind of culture medium that helps to bring forward changes as recently demonstrated in the highly successful events like The Eastern Electronic Festival and their work with Women in Music and young people across the West Midlands.
Having made an outstanding contribution to both applied and experiential research as well as music and arts development is clearly displayed in past projects, here’s a brief history of their Award Winning work.
Shaanti in Birmingham, are at the forefront of innovations in creative change: highlights include championing British Asian electronic, urban and underground music with Ministry of Sound to producing Asian Dub Foundation’s Tank Album Tour (Midlands date only) inside The Custard Factory’s terrace pool. They’ve supported Nitin Sawhney on his Underground Album Tour and have regularly brought new acts to the region first, to their monthly residency at The Medicine Bar in Digbeth. Their event positioned Brit-Asian alternative music with specialist experiential sounds together with headliners like Wiley feat. J.M.E from Boy Better Known, DJ Cameo, Skepta, Medival Punditz (India), Pressure Drop, Talvin Singh (Mercury Prize Winner), Ben Ayres from Cornershop, Indian Rope Man (Skint Records), Panjabi MC, Gaudi, Bhangra Knights, and more, taking over main stage every last Friday, then every last Saturday of the month across eleven years.
Further unique collaborations included exclusive gigs with Afrika Bambaataa and Nightmares On Wax in partnership with Leftfoot. They’ve also produced cutting-edge music events inside New Street Train Station and in many other unexpected places.
Tearing out the rulebook in 2008, proving that Brit-Asian music can be part of the mainstream: Shaanti were the first Brit – Asian collective to host a main club tent at one of the world’s leading festivals. Shaanti was invited by The Cantaloupe Group to program the first Brit-Asian Tent at The Big Chill Festival, to return year-after-year as main stage guests, to running their own independent record-label Shaanti Play Records, supported by Radio 1’s Annie Nightingale, DJ Magazine, Mix-Mag and more.
DJ Magazine gave their album Mighty Asian Beats 4/5 and said ‘this is the most exciting and vital cultural crossover since The Clash discovered reggae,’ while Songlines said ‘this is a trawl through the sounds of urban Britain at night, and it is a mix of the sublime and brutal’. Other magazines like Hip Hop Connection said: ‘’the sounds of the continent aren’t all bollywood cheddar, a theory proved by the Shaanti compilation. Its an interesting cross section of a broad scene deserving much more outside attention’. While Annie Nightingale, the queen of breaks was the first person to play their single ‘Disco Warrior’ on Radio 1 and Steve Sutherland, MOBO Winner said: ‘Its about time we had something abit different on the music scene, which brings true eclectic vibes.’
Taking their music overseas, they promoted artists of the future across Europe, as they were commissioned to set-up a Three-Day, Bi-Monthly Artist Tour in Warsaw, Sopot and Liblin in Poland, with The British Council to being the first Brit-Asian club-night to host a room at the legendary Fabric Club in London, championing underground club-sounds. In 2000, they team up with Radio 1, to produce an event championing British Asian artists and musicians at One Live in Birmingham at The Q Club and in 2002, at One Live in Nottingham at The Bomb. Shaanti was the first Asian club-night to have a live broadcast on Radio 1 twice, however it was the after-effect that helped influence the biggest music development for British Asian music in history.
In 2002, Ian Parkinson, Head Of Specialist, Live Music & Speech, recognised that Radio 1 could only go so far with black music and yet he saw that the fans of this music wanted more and more of it on the radio. He also understood the need to support British Asian music to a brand new audience after Shaanti’s One Live music events in Birmingham and Nottingham. Both broadcasts were extremely instrumental in influencing the future development of music and the launch of Desi Beats, Radio 1 and 1 Xtra’s first British Asian radio show, thus making this and Shaanti an authentic vehicle to advance cultural development amongst multi-cultural communities.
Their radio success continued as Shaanti then went on to head a weekly radio shows on Galaxy FM. International success followed with weekly shows on digital markets including Cuebase FM (Germany), Flute Radio (India), Fnoob Radio (UK) and Luv Asia Radio (UK).
With the uprising of Indian fused in with hip-hop beats taking president in the UK charts, Shaanti were asked to help HMV produce their Desi-Beats Music Division. As music consultants the team introduced them to independent Asian record labels, engaged in a number of round-table industry talks… that resulted in a victory for South Asian and UK talent. British Asian music was now available to buy in all of HMV’s stores nationwide. This was a small step into the mainstream: but a large jump for the South Asian community. Finally Brit-Asian music was being heard!
International success then followed and came in a multiple of tours in London, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds, Italy, France, Dubai, Morocco, Japan and China and working in partnerships saw them create cutting-edge events for 02, Birmingham Hippodrome, British Film Institute, ITV, Channel 4 and much more.
From 2008-2012, Shaanti were brought in to developed The Hockley, the region’s music-arts venue. With just about every single boundary-breaker from almost every genre imaginable represented past guest included Norman Jay, Bloc Party, The Twang Live, Sven Vath, Jazzanova, Eska Mtungwazi, Utah Saints, Simon Baker, Alex Celler, Italo Boys, Smokin Joe, Co-op, Frankie Feliciano, Pier Bucci, Bugz in the Attic, Shaanti, I.G Culture, Phil Asher, Domu, Ali B, Lisa Millett, 4Hero, Nathen “Flute Box” Lee, Miss Moneypennies, ADF Soundsystem, DJ Vadim, Example, DJ Wire, Sowoto Kitch and many more The Hockley hands its artists the time, space and freedom to explore the full frontiers of their craft.
In 2009, Shaanti had reach an epic milestone in its tenth year, a milestone for music and a milestone for the UK, as it also hit a recession, the worst since 1979. The recession impacted the whole of the creative industries, unemployment rose, budgets were cut following a slump in industrial industry. A once flourishing music scene that produced some the best British UK talent, lost its investment. Mainstream record labels stopped signing and spending cuts were inevitable. The British Asian scene stepped back, right back into the roots of the community, a step back from the mainstream and a step back for development as capital stopped to support emerging talent. Official data showed the recession deepened in the first three months of 2009, and the economy shrank by 1.9% during the quarter.
Fully knowing the scene they once helped build was rapidly declining, Shaanti thought of the future: the future of British Asian music and its cultural imprint. In 2010, Shaanti 11 was launched, a music development division and The Eastern Electronic Festival, the UK’s first British Asian new-music and digital-arts festival was born.
Now in its forth year, The Eastern Electronic Festival’s aim is to encourage the public to explore British Asian visual arts, new-music, and engage with the festival via a thought-provoking and creative series of newly produced events. The festival focuses on fuelling the public’s interest and involvement in an unique and inspiring way by bringing together doers and a network of artists to create new commissions (and skills) in a collaborative process. Their aim is to bring to the limelight the fundamental, but yet overlooked hard questions of British Asian music development, contemporary arts and cultural inquiry, with the hope of sparking new and constructive ideas to tackle and address the many problems of today.
Funded by The Arts Council England and local businesses, the festival first launched in February 2011, across seven days in Birmingham and introduced international and local platforms of creative exchange between artists and producers of both musical and multimedia art currents; promoted a variety of new approaches and significantly contributed to shifting new music made by British South Asians out of its isolated niche.
In 2012, the festival merge new music and multimedia art in various concerts, workshops and lectures in Birmingham, it also present contemporary musical approaches by artists who draw on untraditional methods via an electronic musical background with international artists like Sudha from Faithless, Cut La Roc (Skint Records), B.I.D from Leftfield, Evo & RST, Steele Banglez all joining the bill for new commissions and workshops.
In May 2014, the festival hosted a mammoth 31-day event and the launch of Shaanti TV, the first British Asian youth broadcasting television channel produced by young adults, in partnership with Derby University alongside digital-events on radio stations, exhibition’s celebrating heritage, an outreach community workshop tour across Birmingham and the Black Country, new music commissions, digital music platforms supporting emerging artists, live concerts across the City, engagement projects for children under five, community debates and much, much more.
May 2015, also saw the launched of Taste and Liquor, which celebrates pop-up culture, food and lifestyle trends with a succession of unique pop-up, street-events produced at The Coffin Works Museum, The Schoolyard in Harborne, Southside in Birmingham, Botanical Gardens, heritage parks, disused warehouse spaces, Grade 1 Listed buildings and inside shopping centres.
This is an exciting time for arts, music, street-food and popular culture in Greater Birmingham created by our community. The quality, ambition and musical intelligence of our region shout volumes. Our aim for 2017 is to introduce new ideas, provide a forum for artists working in abstract and non-narrative electronic, digital, new music and sound design, and to support, develop and produce the best projects – and event-festivals, that we possibly can.
We humbly welcome you to Shaanti, Shaanti 11 & Taste & Liquor.
Sharnita K Athwal