In 2021, two extremely diverse musicians, Mangka and Eadyth, from far away parts of the world came together to compose a song. Mangka is an established folk singer and an international performer from the northeast Indian state of Manipur who comes from a lineage of folk artists. Groomed and taught by her parents, she has broken tradition by being one of the few female pioneers of the Pena, a folk instrument. Eadyth is an exciting emerging solo producer/singer-songwriter from Wales, UK who has recorded at the acclaimed Rockfield Studios and performed at several festivals.
Coming from different backgrounds, cultures and sounds, Mangka and Eadyth were the most unlikely duo to work together on a piece of music. And yet they managed to collaborate without ever meeting each other in real life (IRL). Their first collaborative piece was co-written and produced over several Zoom meetings. The artists created two versions of the same song incorporating their signature sounds and styles. One version is folksy with heavy influences of Moirang Sai, a traditional form of storytelling in Manipur, while the other one drips with electronic and synthesiser sounds. Both versions are supreme works of musical pieces and to tie it all together into one balanced version, Miti Adhikari was brought in.
For the uninitiated, Miti is a former BBC sound wizard with decades of experience working with the best in the music industry. In his own words when he first heard the songs, he “jumped at the opportunity to make a mix”. Sitting in a Goan beach house, Miti brought the sonic landscapes from faraway Wales and Manipur to his canvas and tied it all up into one song. The result is RaRaReHei, a song about longing and beauty, within and around us. The title is a reference to the notes of the Pena instrument.
In May 2022, Mangka will fly to Wales to meet Eadyth and they will work on a short live set that will hit the road in both the countries. Their debut song RaRaReHei is soon going to be released as an NFT with holders getting access to future IRL events and other utilities. An AR/VR audio-visual event is also in the works with 3D artist Adrian Dominic working on a digital metaverse landscape that is reflective of the story behind the debut song. In this metaverse, like Mangka and Eadyth, many more artists, fans and attendees can come together and connect with each other and, perhaps, collaborate and create.
Ziro Focus (2020–2023) is an ongoing India-Wales collaborative project run by Ziro Festival of Music and Focus Wales showcase festival. It is supported by the British Council and Art Council of Wales’ Connections through Culture programme – which as the name suggests aims to bring together arts organisations and artists from both countries to work together. Ziro Festival is India's most popular community-driven and eco-friendly outdoor music festival held in the Ziro valley, India that celebrates independent music and attracts thousands of music lovers from across the world every year. Focus Wales is an international showcase festival held in Wrexham, UK that showcases the best international acts across multiple venues and hosts conferences featuring well-known names in the music industry.
According to the roadmap, in the first year (2020) of this project, regular on-ground exchange programmes at each other’s festivals were scheduled but the pandemic forced the team to look at alternatives. It led to the creation of Ziro Focus, a pioneer virtual festival where over 60 musicians from both countries came together in an interactive space that allowed artists to introduce their work to each other; new conversations between arts professionals; people from diverse cultures to meet each other; and audiences from over 10 countries to discover Welsh and Indian music. Attendees went on a treasure hunt navigating through a virtual world created to visually represent Ziro and Wrexham (Thanks to Topia!) while listening to playlists from Indian and Welsh bands. It was a gathering of audiophiles, fans and artists that sparked an interest on how to explore connections in times of social distancing.
This was the beginning of a series of work that revolves around the intersection of technology and arts. With the explosion of web3 and blockchain technology over the past year, this project will move on to the web3 space where artists and communities flourish, hopefully leading to more connections through culture.