This year the Chief Executive and Artistic Director of SAMA Arts Network, Jay Visvadeva, will be celebrating 50 years in the arts. We caught up with Jay to hear more about his involvement with South Asian arts and the new SAMA events taking place at Tileyard.
Can you sum up what SAMA Arts Network is all about?
SAMA Arts Network is one of the UK’s oldest and most influential arts organisations in the genre of traditional and contemporary South Asian arts. A greater part of its work is also in presenting Orchestral, Contemporary, Jazz and World Music.
SAMA has curated more than 1,600 events with acclaimed artists from the UK and other parts of the world. Our work has included tours, concerts, festivals, educational talks, workshops, seminars, lecture-demos, film screenings, and visual and performing arts. We were perhaps one of the pioneering organisations to have produced a series of all night concerts at the South Bank Centre and the Riverside Studios between 1985 and 1998. Many of these concerts were filmed, recorded archived and released on physical and digital platforms.
How did the idea for SAMA come about and what is your role?
Between 1970 to 1977, I worked for a Sanskritik Festival of Arts of India, where I was a general runner who did all kinds of tasks. It was here that I met the great Ravi Shankar and George Harrison. I was truly inspired and only 14 years old at the time!
After spending seven years with the festival, the idea for APAM (an arts set up) came about. The aim of APAM was to present a monthly concert programme. The arts organisation APAM was founded in 1977 but 10 years later in 1987 it got changed to SAMA with a slightly different artistic brief.
My role was that of an artistic director – curating a combined arts programme to suit different types of audience. For this level of work I needed a deep aesthetic awareness of the art forms for the discerning audience here and abroad. I was lucky to have harnessed much over the years to programme a multi-genre arts programme every month of the year.
How did you become involved with Tileyard? What excites you about holding and promoting SAMA events here?
The credit goes to both Nick Keynes and Robert Horsfall. I first met Nick Keynes in 2009 at a sync music mission in LA which was organised by the BPI. That same year I met Robert Horsfall of Sound Advice with the British Music delegation in Japan. After couple of years Robert moved his firm, Sound Advice, to Tileyard. I reconnected with Nick who has been an integral part of the community here. I was inspired by what I saw and the potential to be achieved.
In terms of holding events, I liked how intimate the main events space is at Tileyard – The Gallery. Much of the music I promote is suitable for a smaller audience of 70 to 100 people. This is why it works so well in The Gallery.
What can we expect from the SAMA events here at Tileyard?
In the artistic line up this year we have music ensembles, choirs, orchestral, Indo-Jazz works, dance and theatre. The concerts will be performed at different times of the day with morning, afternoon and evening sessions.
Who would be your dream artist to book?
I have worked with some of the finest artists from South Asia and other parts of the world. If I had to pick, my dream artist would be to get Anoushka Shankar and Nora Jones do an intimate set in The Gallery.
What would you like to educate people about with regards to South Asian arts?
This year marks the 100th birth anniversary of the great Ravi Shankar who contributed much to the promotion of Indian classical music and other South Asian Arts. I was privileged to have known him from 1970 to 2012 until his passing away at the age of 92. He was truly the original world music man and I can say that his music truly inspired me.
As a result, I have produced and presented over 1,600 events and co-produced over 450 albums, which were released through Navras Records, co founded with Vibhaker Baxi and the late Kirit Baxi. The production of which has a strong educational value in its liner notes written by distinguished authorities. We offer on going educational awareness sessions via workshops, seminars and master classes.
For someone that is interested in exploring and learning more about South Asian arts, what would you recommend as a starting point?
The best place to start is to attend a concert. I would recommend attending one of our SAMA events at Tileyard. The Gallery is the perfect place to begin this journey due to its intimacy, which envelopes a listener to go into inner time and space. Understanding the music is not necessary but the listener should be be able to feel the notes, the sound and the rapport between the music maker and the audience. The more you listen and attend different concerts, the more you learn.
Congratulations on celebrating 50 years in the arts this year. What have been the highlights?
I feel so lucky to have been in the right place at the right time, with some sort of divinity guiding me. I never looked back since my early teens when I had discovered what I enjoyed most in life – music! I have met some of the finest musicians and experienced wonderful music, which has allowed me to see the world. I have worked with over 3,000 artists, experienced 3,500 hours of music and have been through over 700 hours of film footage, archives, library and reviews.
Are you working on any other exciting projects at the moment?
I am promoting multi-genre art forms here at Tileyard and other venues in London, as well as curating festivals in different parts of the UK. I have just signed off the Indus Arts Festival, which takes place in Cambridgeshire and the East Anglia Region throughout April.
Have you got any big plans for the rest of the year?
I am currently writing a book which sums up my 50 years in the arts, starting from South Bank Centre to Tileyard. I hope to finish it this autumn so stay tuned!
Where can we find out more about SAMA Arts Network?
For more information and event tickets check out our website
If you’re interested in hiring one of our events spaces at Tileyard, email firstname.lastname@example.org