A digital inclusive music collaboration which involved “a sharing of practice, sharing of music, and creating new music” between musicians with disabilities from across the world. Activities to January 2022 included inclusive online training; music workshops, livestream performances and recordings of 10 new tracks for an album ABRAZOS was released on Spotify on 19 March 2022.
Throughout the project, the partners met regularly on Sunday evenings over Zoom with participants in Mexico – Rock DI, a group of disabled musicians supported by the charity Armonia E Inclusion. From September 2021, Paragon’s Stride group of participants were able to rehearse together in-person and performed live at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts in October 2021. Rock DI participated in the performance live on Zoom and the whole performance was broadcast as a Livestream event on YouTube.
Rock DI also presented a concert in Queretaro at the Centro de Arte Emergente. The project is now completing the album which will launch in Mexico at the Arte Ostensible Sin Exclusion Festival in March 2022.
The first element of this project, inclusive training workshops led by the UK partners Paragon Music, supported knowledge exchange and development for their Mexican partners, Armonia E Inclusion, on inclusive practices and techniques for working with disabled musicians, a skillset and approach less established in Mexico. This knowledge exchange occurred both ways, with Armonia E Inclusion bringing understanding of digital musical instruments and music creation.
Beyond knowledge sharing, the project allowed the partners to explore a more sustainable model of partnership and co-creation internationally, especially in the current environment where musicians with limiting disability or access needs may be at higher risk. The partners realised their ambition for the group, with the Scottish musicians performing live in-person with Rock DI live via Zoom, which was then live streamed to an audience, building confidence and skills in digital presentation.
The stories and songs explored through the project supported the partners and participants to build an understanding of each other’s cultures, reflecting on their similarities and differences, with strong emotive responses around the exploration of the big Mexican cultural festival, commemorating and respecting the dead, in light of the experience many have been through during the pandemic.
- Working with a partner with the same aims, goals and passion is vital to get through more challenging times in the project, often caused by the volatile external environment.
- Consider partners’ complementing skills set. As outlined above, Paragon Music brought knowledge of inclusive practices and techniques while Armonia E Inclusion brought expertise in digital music creation.
- Don’t underestimate the additional time and budget that maybe needed for language translations, but don’t let language be a barrier to fruitful conversations. For this project the partners had regular conversation on Slack and used Google Translate to support their dialogue.
“the language barrier shouldn't be seen as that - as a barrier - with us it is an advantage to make music - because music is a universal language that we all can understand” Project partner
- “Be patient with technology”, adapt to new technology and consider early on the combination of digital tools that may be needed for different elements of the project. For example, music recordings from participants were best shared via WhatsApp, conversations between partners and facilitators on Slack across the project and during workshops, Zoom for regular catch-ups for partners, Email for other conversations and Dropbox to store video footage. For the latter it was important to consider the best storage platform for larger content (Google Drive or Dropbox), whilst music can be played directly from Dropbox so was best suited to this project.
“It’s possible [to co-create music online] if you use lots of different platforms, creating video content, creating different types of content, looking at music through a different lens … then it suddenly becomes much more possible … very exciting actually. You go into new territory that you you've never actually been in before” Project partner
- While it may not be possible for participant groups in different countries to gather in-person, it is important to consider how a sense of community can be created with the wider group taking part. For workshops taking place in-person in separate countries at the same time, Zoom can be used to livestream a visual into the room and or facilitate conversation between participants 1-2-1 between countries to support their access needs.
The album ABRAZOS was released on Spotify on 19 March 2022, as part of a festival newly created by Armonia E Inclusion on sustainable arts practice in Mexico, supported by British Council Mexico and with UK speakers introduced through the collaboration with Paragon Music - Creative Carbon.
A project partner said:
“We grew not only as musicians but also as teachers because we managed to teach the participants to make music [online], how to converse, how to meet new people and to do the presentations”
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