Vivid Sydney Is Featuring An All-South Asian Music Event... And It's The Representation We've Always Wanted

Sid Sriram, Priya Ragu, Raf-Saperra with Munasib & Rakish will take to the stage for Spice Trail by Astral People.

DJ Rakish, Raf-Saperra, Priya Ragu, DJ Munasib and Sid Sriram

For many children of South Asian immigrants, music and the arts can be a beautiful way to help them connect with their culture and roots. This has certainly been the case for DJ Munasib, who’s forged her own career, not just behind the decks where she mixes a fusion of eastern and western music, but in the wider world of music marketing and the curation of shows as well. However, the daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants knows that amidst feeling stuck between two cultures, not all second-gen South Asians have been exposed to the joyful intricacies of traditional sounds. 

“I've always been so interested in eastern music, especially growing up around it as my parents are both Bangladeshi musicians,” Munasib tells Draw Your Box. She says “the different scales we operate in which you don't find in western music” were aspects that particularly piqued her interest.

“Existing between the two spaces, I started to notice how much my friends who didn't grow up with the culture were missing out on.” 

Munasib says she kept this front of mind when working on her latest project presented by Astral People – curating the upcoming Spice Trail show which is part of Vivid LIVE’s diverse lineup of live events.

“I'm doing this to show the world what else is out there because I know they will enjoy it,” she says. 

Taking to the stage at Sydney’s iconic Opera House are three artists who’ve become big names in different pockets of the world thanks to their unique takes on their art. They are Indian R&B and playback music sensation Sid Sriram, Tamil-Swiss singer and rapper Priya Ragu and UK-based Punjabi polymath Raf-Saperra. 

“There are only really a handful of artists who are doing what these guys do internationally,” says Munasib. 

“The criteria was that I wanted artists who grew up in the west and take a lot of influence from their culture in their music and have crossed over to other parts of the world.”

Munasib’s research process involved looking into the listening habits of Sydneysiders, and then finding artists who will take audiences on a “musical journey”. 

“I know that these guys will do just that,” she says. 

Sid Sriram, who will also perform in Melbourne a day before the Sydney show, is a perfect example. Born in India and raised in California, he combined Indian Carnatic music, R&B, jazz, new age pop and alternative hypno-rock in his breakout album, Sidharth. Through his music, he’s shown that both our traditional culture and the culture of our new homes can co-exist in a spectacular fusion, and when we look to similarities instead of differences, each can help to elevate the magic found in East and West. He’s also worked with acclaimed Indian musical mastermind A.R. Rahman, performed in over 200 films and took to the stage at Coachella in April.  

“I'm really excited to be back in Australia for these shows in Melbourne and Sydney,” Sriram tells Draw Your Box.

“My set will bring together songs from my English album Sidharth and songs from Indian Film music discography; it will be a dynamic representation of the entire spectrum of my artistry." 

Meanwhile, Swiss singer Priya Ragu has made waves since her debut single, Good Love 2.0 in 2020, and is stoked that her work has reached as far as the Southern Hemisphere.

"It amazes me to see how music has travelled across borders and brought me, through my artistry, to the beautiful shores of Australia," she tells Draw Your Box. "I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity to share my music with the wonderful people of this country and perform in iconic venues."

In addition to the three international artists, Munasib and fellow Kerfew member, DJ Rakish will be hitting the decks as well. 

As Munasib explains, Kerfew is an Australia-wide creative collective of South Asian musicians, designers and broadcasters (together, artists) who use art as a vehicle to explore, reimagine and celebrate the cultures and stories that are shaped by the uniquely Australian South Asian diaspora experience. 

She hints that her and Rakish’s contributions to Spice Trail will involve “sounds from all over the trail, Bangladesh to Egypt and everything in between”. 

Rakish adds that he loves "gigs where I get to flex my library of diverse South Asian sounds – from Bhangra to Tamil Disco, Contemporary R&B and 90s Indo-UK garage – and it’ll all be on the menu".

Growing up in Australia, Rakish looked overseas for brown role models in the music space. "My cousins Neha and Giti didi showed me, from a young age, that the UK-diaspora had a thriving garage, dance and RNB scene which is a huge source of inspiration now," he says.

"It makes sense, with the UK have a longer history of South Asian migration and deeply entrenched diasporic generations, but it did always show that you could succeed being brown and creative. Australia just needed time, and arguably, that time has now arrived."

Not only does Munasib ultimately want audiences to discover “some new favourite artists” from Spice Trail, but she also wants listeners and the industry alike to recognise that South Asians deserve to shine on the platform that Vivid Sydney presents. 

“Looking around the world, it’s finally time for brown people to have a space and a voice to show themselves to the world,” she says. “For many years we were overlooked but it seems people are starting to catch on now.” 

Spice Trail takes place on Tuesday, May 28 at 7pm at Sydney Opera House. Ticket details are available here