As part of our Making Space for Inclusive Arts series we sat down with sound artist Somatic to discuss more about his sound art documentary Sonic Landscapes of Colour. The podcast documentary that is set to be released on BBC Radio Devon on Monday August 15th, tells the story of of young (18-26) People of Colour (POC) who have grown up in the South West (Somerset, Devon & Cornwall). Sonic Landscapes of Colour is an ambitious project that aims to provide a platform and give collective power to some of these younger voices. As part of the festival we are organising a listening and reflection session taking part on August 18th at 18:00-20:30pm, at the Angel.
In this interview, Somatic gives us a deeper insight into how and why he created this important project.
Can you tell us about yourself and working with sound as an art medium.
I’m Somin. I work under the artistic name Somatic, which means of the body, so I like to think that a lot of my sound is coming from the body, or to make bodies move or feel in some way. I’m from Exeter, born and grown up here. I’m from a Gujarati, Indian and English heritage. I’ve always been interested in sound. I was brought up going to festivals since the age of 1, so sound and music has always been integral to my life, and that progressed into taking up percussion and becoming a drummer, that moved into more electronic music and radio production, and that naturally progressed into me making more electronic dance music. Since then I’ve been pushing that further, and how I can use that skill set I’ve developed to survive as a creative and to tell stories that are communicating emotions that I think is important.
Where did the idea for Sonic Landscapes of Colour come from?
I think during the cultural awakening in the UK around BLM, going out and being apart of the local protests really made me realise how many young people of colour there are, and how a lot of the time due to the rural makeup of the South West we are spread out and made to feel quite isolated consequently. The reality is there are really quite a lot of us, and by bringing voices together you can demonstrate that. So for me, it was very much about that. I spotted a lot of media outlets trying to respond to this need but were only focusing on stories from urban areas, which isn’t the narrative we have down here, and that our experiences are actually quite different. So I really just wanted to try and highlight those and bring them together, and show our commonalities and differences, and create a piece of art that can bring long term active meaningful change in this landscape.
What was the process for creating the project like?
I started off by doing a public call out. Which was scary and exciting at the same time! Cause you never really know what you are going to get from that. And had a variety of both musicians and individuals come back to me. I tried to build a list from that that represented different geographical backgrounds, genders and sexualities, and from around the world, in terms of their heritages. I then sat down and interviewed everyone individually (post-covid in January). Sat down in their homes and built a studio in their rooms, in a lot of living rooms! And had a conversation about it really. I had 10 open ended questions, well starting points really, and within that it was just following the trail of the story and what people wanted to tell me… extracting people’s experiences from that. It ended up in some ways being really cathartic for myself, which was quite nice. But also quite heavy listening to that almost daily, over a few weeks.
And then each of those conversations ended up being an hour to two hours long. I took that and a big spreadsheet of the best bits and pieced them together, and that ended up piecing itself together into episodes. It ended up being 2 episodes as there were so many amazing stories and experiences that needed to be shared. So it’s two 55 minute episodes basically.
That’s the storytelling aspect of it, in terms of the musical soundscape that sits underneath. Again, I had to find a variety of instrumentalists from different places and try to build a different kind of varied talent of sounds that I could pull from. And I was really lucky to be able to do that… So throughout the piece it’s a mix of verbatim recordings and layered stuff of bare material that was then manipulated. Alongside that there is a little bit more of traditional contextual sound. So sometimes there is a particular story that I felt would be good to support the listener in that place with sounds of the city or the woods or the sea, and then piecing that together, so that helps and supports the emotional content of the whole piece.
What do you hope people will get from listening to these stories?
I don’t really want to prescribe what people will get. I think that is very much an individual experience. What I really hope for is that they listen with an open mind and heart and in a self-reflective manner when they listen… For those people that are white especially and have lived here for a long time and haven’t been around a lot of brown people or heard those experiences before, to listen and receive. And for the young POC especially it’s really about trying to support them and us in that context, to feel like they belong here a bit more. And that there is a lot of questioning around identity and no one has it figured out, that everyone creates what works for themselves. This project is really about supporting them… it’s a hard question to answer.
Somatic (Somin Griffin-Dave) is a dual-heritage Indian-English Sound Artist born and raised in Exeter. His diverse creative practice encompasses sound and music for theatre, dance, screen and club dancefloors. Although his sound is rooted in electronica and ‘dance music’ he takes influence from the rural landscape he grew up in and the myriad of genres from around the world he was brought up on.
In 2019, Somin graduated from Bath Spa Univeristy with a 1st class honors degree in Creative Music Technology and has since gone to have his work shown at Sundance film festival (Child of Empire 2022), clocked up 350k+ plays on Spotify and toured the USA & Australia with Koan Sound.
You can book tickets to Sonic Landscapes of Colour listening session here
You can listen to the BBC mini-sodes here