Daniel Arthur Panjwaneey and Natasha Noorani perform at the 2nd Sine Valley festival in Kathmandu
Daniel Arthur Panjwaneey and Natasha Noorani perform at the 2nd Sine Valley festival in Kathmandu

Late in October, electronic music producers from Pakistan, India, Maldives and beyond came together in Kathmandu, Nepal for the second edition of Sine Valley.

The 10-day festival featured collaborative sessions, improvisational performances, live concerts and DJ sets as well as panel talks and masterclasses by the artists themselves. The aim of the festival was to highlight experimental ideas and practices that have led to the genesis of a unique art form.

Sine Valley has been founded by Pakistan's Daniel Arthur Panjwaneey (who's known as Alien Panda Jury in music circles) and Maldives' M. Manal (aka Autonomotor). Nepal's Rishi Jha takes on the role of Festival Manager.

The second edition's artist line-up included Daniel (as Alien Panda Jury) and singer-songwriter Natasha Noorani from Pakistan, as well as artists from India, Nepal, Maldives, France and Italy.

We speak to the festival's team and artists to learn more about their experience.

Images: How did you guys conceptualise the festival? What are some of the long-term goals of putting this together?

Daniel Arthur Panjwaneey/Alien Panda Jury (Festival Director/Co-founder): It was a bit organic, to be honest. Manal and I had roughly discussed a collaboration-based initiative (People of Electronicity) followed by a showcasing of each individual artist's own music in the summer of 2016 in Berlin.

Kathmandu was also always the plan considering its accessibility to people from South Asia and beyond. Shortly after, I visited Kathmandu to look for the right people and ended up being at the right place at the right time by meeting people like Rishi, Ranzen and Chandresha I suppose the universe was a little on our side when that happened.

The long-term goals are creating a consistent platform for electronic music and experimentation within the region and delving deeper and bridging the gap between tradition and modernity; one such plan involves reaching out to areas and giving production workshops to aspiring artists where it may ‘seem’ inaccessible.

We’re still two years young and are learning new things as we go, but I suppose the one thing we definitely want to keep consistent is the concept of all the artists involved becoming a community and network that grows in the years to come.

Festival co-founder Daniel Arthur Panjwaneey with artists at Sine Valley
Festival co-founder Daniel Arthur Panjwaneey with artists at Sine Valley

M. Manal/Autonomotor (Festival Co-founder): It wasn't meant to become a festival at first. Rather, it was a little project where we were going to jam with some friends from Kathmandu who were also electronic music producers. But since we all got together, we wanted to play and share our music which [eventually came together] as Sine Valley. The main essence of this project is to create a space where the gap between different creative minds [is reduced].

Rishi Jha (Festival Manager): This kind of festival was long due for a city like Kathmandu. We will start working on Sine Valley's third edition soon because we are learning every year and realise how much more there is to do.

Images: How is the festival financed? Is there support from governments, private organisations, NGOs or grants?

Daniel: As it stands, the entire festival is a labour of love. We’re like a family, most of it is financed by ourselves and the audience and assisted by favours from friends and partnering venues. We’re looking for support for future editions, let’s see how that pans out before the next one!

Manal: At this initial stage, it’s being funded by just us. Like Danny says, it’s a labour of love. But as we grow, we are attracting relevant people who are interested in what we do and support us. This year’s edition has proved rather promising with the outreach.

Rishi: Additionally, we had a little support from a company this year that was thankfully not aggressive in terms of their own publicity and understood our attention to a visual design for the festival.

The festival's design was inspired by the local deities and folklore from the various countries of origin of the participating artists. (Artwork by Sana Nasir)
The festival's design was inspired by the local deities and folklore from the various countries of origin of the participating artists. (Artwork by Sana Nasir)

Images: What was the theme of this year’s festival?

Rishi: In terms of visual elements, local deities and folklores from the various countries of origin of the festival's participating artists.

Manal: Mythology and urban icons interpreted in a contemporary context by our awesome art director [Sana Nasir].

Daniel: Musically, we continued this year with the focus of a collaborative spirit. A week before the festival, we host a collab week where all the artists involved get together and jam and record improvised ideas on the spot. A representation of this comes out in our live improv jam gigs during the festival, which happen to be really special events for both us and the audience. This year, we even had some slam poets from the Word Warriors collaborate with us.

Images: Why did you guys choose Nepal as the location for the first two editions of Sine Valley?

Daniel: The main reason has been Nepal’s accessibility to the region and beyond, it can serve as a hub for cross-cultural collaboration and we hope to establish exactly that.

Manal: It just feels right. There's a charm to this place. So many positive vibrations.

Rishi: It's the easiest place to invite Indians and Pakistanis under the same roof with a bigger family of artists. And obviously, it has the potential to be the cultural capital of South Asia.

Nepal feels 'just right' to the organisers of Sine Valley
Nepal feels 'just right' to the organisers of Sine Valley

What is the future of the festival? Is there a chance of it happening outside of Nepal? Perhaps, Pakistan?

Manal: We have some ideas in the pot to brew some projects in this region. No solid plans but very promising nonetheless.

Rishi: Sine Valley was born in Nepal but can be hosted in any part of the world.

Daniel: Only the future knows! I suppose it would be really fun to showcase some of this outside Nepal, so that’s definitely an idea that’s still on the table. It just depends on whether we can garner enough support to cover the logistics of it to happen outside Nepal.

The artists share their experience...

Images: How has your experience of Sine Valley been?

Natasha Noorani (Pakistan): Sine Valley has really helped me grow as a musician. With the backdrop and nurturing vibes of Kathmandu and a stellar line-up, it's been wonderfully ideal conditions to be a part of the festival. It's a fantastic initiative and really pushed me to experiment and, most importantly, share my music with people.

Marta del Grandi (Italy): The experience has been challenging. It gave me space to try experiments, to get to know the artists personally and understand a deeper level of their work.

Aditya Nandwana/Sawhorse (India): In one word: amazing. It’s hard to connect with musicians from the South Asian region who are extremely talented and forward-thinking musicians, but remain unknown for a long time until they are known in the Western underground circles, because our music networks still have a fairly long way to go.

To bring together Nepali, Maldivian, Pakistani and Indian performers in a unifying space of experimental electronic music is a heroic task. This festival should be known a lot better than it is, and should grow.

Chandresha Pandey/Zeromile (India): It was amazing to work with so many artists from all over the world. It was a great musical exchange which we normally don’t experience here. Playing with each others gear and singing along with them was great fun.

It feels good to be a small part of something that is creating a community locally and focuses on our extremely rich musical present, that defies the imposition of borders on the creative act." — Aditya Nandwana aka Sawhorse

Images: What do you get from collaborating with artists from different regions, across genres and various mediums?

Natasha Noorani: The festival started out with a week-long collaborative exercise that was extremely challenging but so rewarding. Everyone was really keen to share ideas and get to learn from each other. It was a really great group of people to be working with so intimately. I've gotten to collaborate and work closely with musicians from Nepal, Pakistan, Italy, France and India and it's really interesting to see how unique everyone's process is.

It's extremely interesting to hear how the People of Electronicity bring fresh strands of musical ideas purely because the space that Sine Valley creates enables each artist to showcase their own work and to collaborate closely. It's challenging to access and interact with another musician's style and to do it justice but the fact that everyone was so supportive really helped!

Marta Del Grandi: The diversity within this festival was surely inspiring and helped me to focus on giving a clearer direction to my own work. I felt a connection with the work of some other musicians and I hope there will be the chance for further collaborations.

Aditya Nandwana: Personally, a big reason for me to be part of this is that it enabled me to connect with peers from Pakistan. Indian and Pakistani artists have had no easy task coming together and creating something beautiful because of the political rifts that divide the nations to celebrate the common language and skill set they share.

Collaboration is always harder, nobler and of greater value than competition, and this is as true for music as it is for everything else. It requires and enforces humility. Having entered music at a very late age, I feel like I have grown a lot by playing with or simply observing better musicians who integrate their cultural identities, languages and local influences into how they shape sounds and rhythms.

I think this is true of everybody - people from the South Asian region might have common origins, but have grown extremely diverse over time. To add to this, electronic music is a very powerful medium, because the electronic music machine has no true cultural identity and the synthesiser is an instrument that is never complete. To watch these brilliant musicians bring in their backgrounds and express them through the medium of electronic music was humbling. To play alongside them, across genres, was eye-opening and made me rethink my own abilities as a musician - in a positive way.

Chandresha Pandey/Zeromile: An art extends with collaboration. Regardless of where we come from and what genres we belong to, we can create one sound. It was a fun learning process. We've got new friends and good memories. Feels amazing to be a part of such great event.

How do you think this exposure benefits your career going forward?

Natasha Noorani: The festival really allowed me a space to be open to exploring myself as an artist and it's been so great playing around Kathmandu over the last 10 days. It's really been pivotal in helping me acknowledge myself as a musician and to want to just learn, evolve and collaborate more!

Marta Del Grandi: I think this experience represents a coherent stepping stone in my artistic journey and helps me to establish myself as a solo performer.

Aditya Nandwana/Sawhorse: I never saw the festival as a way to benefit my career as such - what I can say is that Animal Factory Amplification, my brand of pedals and synthesisers in Bombay, was always intended to be a local answer to creative sound devices.

I believe that the talent represented at this festival was no less than world class, and proof that South Asia is a musical powerhouse that underestimates itself greatly. It feels good to be a small part of something that is creating a community locally and focuses on our extremely rich musical present, that defies the imposition of borders on the creative act. As for my career, playing and interacting with musicians better than yourself always betters you.

Chandresha Pandey/Zeromile: We learnt a lot from each other’s music. It boosted up the energy and motivated us to make some more interesting sounds.