Artstate Lismore 2017: Q&A with Soumik Datta

Soumik Datta. Image courtesy Regional Arts NSW

Regional Arts NSW are presenting a stimulating program of regional, national and international speakers for Artstate Lismore 2017. The four-day conference and arts program will shine a light on excellence in regional arts practice and provide an opportunity to explore the exciting possibilities for arts and cultural development across NSW.

Soumik Datta is one of many international speakers who will be giving a keynote address at the conference. Soumik Datta is a British Indian composer and virtuoso player of the sarod – a 19 stringed fretless instrument with a nomadic history spanning ancient Afghanistan, colonial India and modern day global downloads.

We interviewed Soumik to find out what audiences can expect from Artstate Lismore 2017.

You’re providing the opening keynote on Creative Practice at Artstate Lismore. Can you tell us more about your keynote address?

As an artist, I am constantly searching, evolving and growing. Through my Sarod, I discover new aspects to my self on a daily basis. My keynote is about the continual quest for questions and answers that lead to the development of craft and ideology. Unexpected doors burst open and with them come the potential for new journeys. Many of these may seem impossible at the beginning but these very limitations and challenges are the corner stones that make us artists and ultimately make us human.

What do you hope audiences take away from your talk?

There are no mistakes during your search as an artist. One direction seamlessly opens another and then at the same time may return you back to your roots. I’d like to encourage audiences to think about the subject of roots and why it is a crucial time now to pay close attention to history and heritage.

You’ve collaborated with world-famous performers like Beyonce, Jay-Z and Bill Bailey. How did you come to work with such eclectic artists?

I’ve been very lucky to be at the right place at the right time. I’ve also been lucky to have had incredible teachers who made sure that when I did stumble upon these golden opportunities, I was able to make the most of them. Collaborations are a seminal aspect of what I do as a musician and working with the world’s best has helped take the sound of the Indian classical Sarod into a global arena.

Earlier this year you directed your first TV series called Tuning 2 You that is about rural musicians in India. Why did you feel it was important to tell this story (do you think it helps shine light on regional arts excellence)?

For many of us these days music exists on touch screens and bluetooth speakers. A few years ago I had reached a point of saturation with technology and yearned to be in touch with something deeper, more elemental and raw. When I embarked on a pilgrimage across India to pay homage to incredible rural musicians in towns and villages, hidden from the mainstream I had no idea this journey would turn into a six-part television series screened on British national television. The thought that many were able to share in the beauty of these folk and tribal cultures brings me great joy!

What are you looking forward to seeing at the Artstate Lismore Conference and Festival? Why is it important to you to be participating in this Conference?

I’m looking forward to hearing all the keynote speeches and soaking in the Artstate atmosphere. I’m also a big fan of Aboriginal culture and would love to collaborate with local Australian artists one day.


Registrations for Artstate Lismore are open. Join the conversation and celebrate the arts in regional NSW at Artstate Lismore, from 30 November – 3 December. Register here.

An exciting line up of speakers will inspire, provoke and stimulate accompanied by a diverse arts program showcasing the best of this creative region.

Artstate NSW is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW

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