Decolonization of Sounds through Sonic Art

Azeem Shah (Malaysia) 

September – November 2023, UK


Malaysia is a former British colony and only gained independence 65 years ago. As such, I would like to explore the archived material that was collected by the British during colonial rule, particularly the sound and music files of the British Library (London), as well as the material in SOAS at the University of London. The purpose of this need for access is to gain insight into the existing archival material, processed and unprocessed, in order to: 

1. Catalogue as much of the music archives. 

2. Study the music that was recorded and compose a musical artwork. 

3. Investigate repatriation efforts to bring back some of the materials.  

As part of this fellowship, I wish to include musical influences studied during this fellowship, and carefully and respectfully incorporate them in my composition. Being in a music writers’ group, I can also share this knowledge with my peers, and they can influence their audience, creating a bigger impact and giving life to this buried heritage. An airplay with digital platforms could see these archival influences being heard by millions at a time. 

I am certain that the general public is unaware of these archives abroad, let alone their importance. My project fits the DeCoSEAS agenda as this project helps to amplify the dialogue of decolonizing sounds, through musical artworks, that hopefully will gain people’s awareness.