Perhaps you’ve noticed this attending cultural events in the San Francisco Bay Area: a lack of diversity in the audience. You go to the opera, and you see mostly white people. You go a South Asian concert, and you see mostly South Asian people. And so on and so on.
For the last five years, Sangam Arts has brought artists together from wildly different artistic traditions to co-create. "America is not a melting pot but a mosaic," says co-founder Usha Srinivasan.
"You know, as the Bay Area area gets more diverse, ironically, we are all less integrated because we all tend to live, eat, pray, you know, celebrate within communities that look just like us." She wants to break down the silos that separate us. "Peel back the superficial differences that we fixate on and we see that there's a lot more that we have in common, even as, at the same time, we celebrate our differences," Srinivasan says.
The results can be surprisingly delightful. Watch this performance of an Arabic song, The Flower Seller, sung by by Hannah Doughri with Lee Dynes on the oud and accompanied by Bharatanatyam dancer Urmila Vudali.
Srinivasan says she's aware cultural fusions don't always work well. "We don't want this to be a cultural safari where it's like international day at school and people are saying 'Now we have India, and next up, China!'"