The Making of Art is Life: SoundFrames

Sadhana Rao

As a special ode to two art forms – music and visual arts – MAP presents its annual festival, Art is Life: SoundFrames, this year designed and conceptualised around music.


Artistic expressions have long shaped human experiences, as sound preceded language and drawing preceded writing. The visual and musical arts form an integral part of the history of humankind as the earliest forms of communication, whether for leisure or for ritualistic purposes. Thus, as a special ode to the two art forms – music and visual arts – MAP presents its annual festival, Art is Life: SoundFrames, this year designed and conceptualised around music.

The visual arts and music, both share deep familial ties belonging to the gene pool of art. Like most binding ties of relationships, they exemplify a compelling collective identity, yet with their individual characteristics and pathways carved out. Art is Life: SoundFrames by MAP, in collaboration with Berklee College of Music, showcases the visual and musical arts within the elements of their intersection, their crossovers and in their solo universe.

As the curator of the festival, I along with the festival team from MAP have composed the narrative arch, ensuring that the entire programming takes shape and form. For me, the following words by Albert Einstein encapsulate the planning process aptly: “Art is standing with one hand extended into the universe and one hand into the world and letting ourselves be a conduit for passing energy…” And we surely felt the power of this energy, as we brought together the exciting festival to celebrate MAP, the intersection of the visual arts and music, the interconnectedness of all art forms, and the power of the museum and music to bring people together.

Art is Life: SoundFrames is a multi-genre festival and for us, inclusivity and gender diversity were cornerstones of the curation. Our endeavour has been to layer the festival canvas with a wide variety of artistic landscapes from the subcontinent. The heartbeat of the festival has been the “talent at scale” across geographies, as artists set up studio stages for us. They prepared and rendered riveting performances in their homelands for the concerts that will be aired at the festival, and also engaged with the entire team with unbridled creativity, wit and humility. 

Penn Masala perform at University of Pennsylvania’s Annual Spring Show, 2019

Penn Masala shot and recorded in Pennsylvania in inclement weather, and aced the heating in the recording room just so they could don Indian attire for the digital concert. Meanwhile, Vidya Shah in New Delhi created a mehfil stage to render “Thumri Gayaki”, in which she interspersed her music with the visuals of courtesans from MAP’s collection.

Jatinder Singh Durhailay

Jatinder Singh Durhailay in London with his majestic instrument, the Dilruba, attired in his traditional costume and rendered a mesmerising Dilruba recital in one of its purest forms – as accompanying music to Gurbani recitation.

Sonika Soni and Vir Amar Dasmahpatra decoded Ragamala paintings for us from Zurich, while the children of the Manganiyar and Langa communities gathered in their village near Barmer in Rajasthan at Bhugra Khan’s school. Sharing the stage with their elders, they energetically gave us a rendering of folk songs from their rich and varied cultural repository. The Bangalore Children’s Chorus, too, energetically took to the stage at the Bangalore International Centre to render their compositions.

Untitled (Todi Ragini), 19th century, Opaque watercolour and gold on paper, PTG.01594

On behalf of the entire team of the festival, I can say that we feel a deep sense of gratitude to all the artists for ever so generously sharing their craft with us and the audiences.

Layered with various musical explorations are also specially curated art exhibitions which showcase the extensive collection at MAP. Tune in to Art is Life: SoundFrames premiering digitally in the first weekend of December, from 3-5 December 2021.

Click here to watch the various sessions of the festival.


Sadhana Rao is a research-led writer and curator in the arts and culture space, and is the curator for MAP’s festival Art is Life: SoundFrames 2021.

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