At a Wednesday afternoon meeting of the Austin Music Commission, representatives from the newly formed group Asian Creatives of Greater Austin (ACGA) spoke about a lack of representation of Asian Americans, South Asians and Pacific Islanders in the Austin music industry.
"Asian American Pacific Islander or South Asian creatives often get sidelined. And it's not usually through malice or disinterest so much as just a lack of awareness and, I think, a lack of resources, because there hasn't been a lot of advocacy, because there haven't been previous generations to build that base," singer-songwriter Betty Soo said in a video presentation about the group’s mission.
Pramod Pratil, who chairs the city’s Asian American Quality of Life workgroup, said that the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in Austin includes people from 25 countries who represent 40 different ethnic groups. He said the community makes up 8% of Austin’s population and is growing rapidly.
"Right now we have a real opportunity to elevate the profile of AAPI musicians in our hometown. So that the talent that's developing here feels fully welcomed and included in the fabric of our commercial music scene," Soo said during the meeting.
A press release about the group said their first initiative is to "focus on creating a music hub" for the community.
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"We need a place where people can walk in without hesitation that they (will) be treated as foreigners, a place where they have an unequivocal sense of creative citizenship," Nagavalli Medicharla, one of the group’s interim presidents said at the meeting.
"When I started over a decade ago, I felt like a lone warrior with no knowledge about the music business. The music scene here was foreign to me," she said.
She described the music hub as a place where musicians could find educational opportunities, rehearsal spaces, live stream and recording studios and performance venues. It would be a "place to foster cross genre and cross cultural collaboration between traditional musicians and professional musicians outside the AAPI community," she said.
The group’s press release suggested city money from a $12 million 2018 creative spaces bond and Austin’s new live music fund might be used to fund the creation of the hub, but they did not ask for a specific amount of money at the meeting.
In June, Jonathan "Chaka" Mahone called for 50% of the live music fund to be allocated to a dedicated Black Live Music Fund "to reinvest in the community that laid the groundwork for much of the prosperity that white venues, promoters, theaters and more have experienced over the last 50 years."
In August, the Mexican-American Music Alliance (MAMA) and the Latin Music Coalition Austin (LMCA) requested a $1.5 million fund be created to address the "disparity that exists" in financial support for Mexican American and Latino musicians, community venues and industry development.
"Asian Creatives of Greater Austin (ACGA) supports both the Black Music Fund and the Latino Music Fund, as African American and Latinx communities have been neglected financially for too long. We are fully in favor of, and join in advocating for, increased funding and access for BIPOC and Latinx creatives. We stand in solidarity with these communities and fully support their cause," Melody Chang from ACGA said via email.
"ACGA is requesting a seat at the table and envisions applying resources to pursue collaboration with other minority communities," she wrote. "We believe diversity and representation make a difference, and investing in Austin’s AAPI community (the city’s largest growing demographic) will help generate a more equitable music scene and a more inclusive culture for the city at large."