Digital Prototyping for Non-Commercial Musical Performers and Festivals

Between September 2018 and June 2019, ukai Projects has worked with Nagata Shachu Taiko Ensemble, Music Africa (music and culture festival) and Music in the Barns (classical installation concert and event producer) to identify and analyze opportunities to translate culturally-specific performance to digital environments, and to build three digital prototypes to advance organizational objectives and community knowledge for culturally-specific music organizations in Canada. The prototypes and research related to the process will be presented and disseminated through digital platforms and relevant arts events. Our aim is to explore the use of digital technologies in the development and creation of new works while strengthening social inclusion in audience communities.

The shift to digital has privileged commercially successful and Western disciplines. There is a need to translate hybrid, diasporic and non-Western traditions into digital business models. We believe that this project will advance our understanding of how.

image courtesy Music in the Barns

image courtesy Music in the Barns

Research by CAPACOA warns of a potential homogenization of the digital world toward “fewer voices, rather than more, and more diverse, voices”. They argue that, “ensuring equitable access and cultural diversity is critical to fostering a strong, resilient democracy and a more just society. It is important to guard against systemic exclusions or barriers that disproportionately affect specific populations.”

Canada’s numerous, culturally diverse arts organizations play a valuable role in reflecting and supporting the diverse fabric of Canadian society. They frequently have passionate and committed audiences. Many also serve harder-to-reach audiences outside of traditional presenting opportunities, both domestically and internationally. Arts participation can be dramatically increased by building the capacity of numerous smaller organizations to achieve wider and more diverse reach through digital production and dissemination. However, little is known about the opportunities and challenges for culturally-diverse forms in their translation to digital environments.

We are developing content and expressions that will meet local needs of Music Africa, Music in the Barns and Nagata Shachu Taiko Ensemble while demonstrating how regional exchange networks can support, and be supported by, culturally diverse Canadian arts organizations. The diversity of the collective members allow us to identify the common challenges as well as the idiosyncratic needs involved with translating culturally-specific work to digital environments.

We believe that most small and mid-sized arts organizations, particularly those serving specific cultural communities, can make a successful move to digital environments. They are often limited by ongoing precarity that can be addressed through intentional capacity building and resourced, collective initiatives that distribute risk and commitment across a broader community. This structure also allows organizations to focus limited resources on delivering outstanding creative work rather than on raising the money for individual projects and experiments.

One way for Canada to highlight our diverse culture is by sharing creative, diverse work to a world hungry for examples of tolerance and peaceful co-existence. Opportunities to tell these stories best rests with those embodying the diverse and intersecting cultural map of Canada. Building the capacity to tell those stories (and many others) is the intended outcome of this project.

Jerrold McGrathComment