Salt Arts: Collaboration reigns supreme

Published: November 8, 2015
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Natasha Beyg, member of musical ensemble Sounds of Kolachi.  PHOTO CREDIT: SITWAT RIZVI

Natasha Beyg, member of musical ensemble Sounds of Kolachi. PHOTO CREDIT: SITWAT RIZVI

Salt Arts is a music, art and entertainment agency, specialising in the creative production of events, artist management, audience development, and inter-cultural exchange. It is committed to enriching artists and subcultures in South Asia, and beyond. Trusting the power of inter-disciplinary movement, and collective spirit, Salt Arts believes in collaboration at every level.

In August 2015, after years of working as an artist, and manager of the arts, I found myself looking for new directions. Salt Arts was co-founded by me and Junaid Iqbal in September 2015. Schoolmates and friends, we are both driven by our work, are multi-taskers and find great satisfaction in problem-solving. Salt Arts came from Junaid’s entrepreneurial aspirations and risk-taking abilities, and my identity and experience as a cultural practitioner. Junaid is currently the Managing Director for Careem in Pakistan.

Co-founder of Salt Arts, Raania Azam Khan Durrani. PHOTO CREDIT: MARIAM ISMAIL

The first few discussions happened in my kitchen where we both realised it was time to dive in and invest our skills into something that would allow boundless possibilities. We quickly became one of those people who work around the clock from kitchen tables and cafés. Hasan Waliany came on as the design consultant and helped with the conceptual development for Salt Arts and its projects. He is now one of the core team members, and works directly with me on creative strategy and execution. Sitwat Rizvi came on board as a photographer with a deep interest in storytelling, portraiture and experimentation, and was immediately interested in the idea of building identities and strengthening the image of the artist. Hamna Haqqi, a young spark, came on as a junior creative producer. Mary Therese Kurkalang, an arts manager and friend in Delhi, joined the team as an advisor for international projects. Within a month, Salt Arts was born, and content was released to the public on September 20, 2015.

Co-founder of Salt Arts, Junaid Iqbal. PHOTO CREDIT: JUNAID IQBAL’S COLLECTION

Salt Arts functions on variables and revenue-sharing models, which focus on the collective win. More than just a middle man, Salt Arts enables conceptual development, visual management, and strategic planning to ensure quality creative productions for the benefit of the performers and the audience. The last thing we want is for the drummer to leave the stage mid-performance to resolve issues, or for a singer to take time off from rehearsal to negotiate. Hence, we formed the Salt Arts Collective which is a group of individuals and organisations who work together for a common goal.Salt Arts intends on enriching and uplifting cultural landscapes by developing audiences — converting intenders to attendees — via quality programming, and design. It promises to handle the curation, management and production of events, leaving performers and artists to focus on delivering their content. It provides creative direction not only to artists, but also to corporations and organisations that want to integrate the arts into their regular activities.

Salt Arts’ first public production was held on October 10, 2015, where it reintroduced the Sounds of Kolachi — a 12-person ensemble — with a new look and a refreshed musical style. The project was a true collaboration since band members were open to creative direction, and together we produced ‘The Salt Shaker — Series 01’ — a series of events curated and produced by Salt Arts. The event was held at an integral part of the Salts Arts Collective, the Alliance Francaise de Karachi — a multi-faceted space boasting beautiful gardens, a library and café, led by Jean Francoise Chenin. So far, our greatest win has been the validation that comes from witnessing a deeply invested and diverse audience. It was even more satisfying when audience members began tweeting in disbelief that the event began on time. We are now planning to hold a series of concerts this season, along with a major online release, and inter-city and international projects.

Sounds of Kolachi performing at the Alliance Francaise de Karachi. PHOTO CREDIT: AHMER QURESHI

One of our main goals is nurturing a new generation of listeners and attendees — hence, children’s programming is high on our priority list. We want to add value to the experience of festivals, performances and exhibitions so that children and adults get pulled away from the hypnotic screens they are hooked onto.The kitchen table office is very current and hip, and sounds cool but eventually things get tough. A start-up has no down-time and an office of workaholics which never closes. Keeping this in mind, Salt Arts will be moving into an office space at the Alliance Francaise de Karachi in a month. Besides having a physical space for administrative use, we will also be collaborating with the AFK as a venue and vision partner for regular programming.

For start-ups, the most terrifying thought is little or no public support. People are often resistant to new ideas and question your enthusiasm and vision. However, it is for us to cling to our values so that the audience and collaborators offer trust and support in due time. We work with everyone who is committed to quality. We are open to ideas. We lead but we also listen. At Salt Arts, collaboration reigns supreme.

Raania Azam Khan Durrani is the Co-Founder/Artistic Director at Salt Arts.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, November 8th, 2015.

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