In September of 2014, Subcontinental Drift Boston was celebrating its second anniversary curating space for South Asian creatives. At the time, the grassroots organization had mixed results about its local community open mics.
“Yeah, we’d literally be begging our friends who we knew were performers to sign up to perform on the mic,” co-organizer Adi Nochur explains. “So we would have a lineup of maybe four or five performers to perform to a room of 15 or 20 people.”
Nochur goes on to say that night in 2014, however, reassured him and fellow organizers their efforts were paying off: “I believe it was our very first feature, which was this band Awaaz Do, featuring a number of our friends who do a really neat backup of punk rock and Bollywood that makes any kind of rock that covers a Bollywood sun, with their own original materials. I think we had probably 60 or 70 people come out that night, it was one of the bigger events we’ve ever had. And that was the point where we all sort of looked at each other and realized, ‘oh man we did something amazing. Now we need to do this every month.’”
Ava Sophia, nominated for the Boston Music Award’s Best R&B artist in 2020, credits Subdrift for developing her artistic identity. “I started going to Subdrift in 2015, while I was in college. It was the first place as a South Asian musician I felt accepted, not only for heritage but for everything that encompasses me: being South Asian, being biracial, being a musician. It didn’t feel like a place where I needed to pick and choose parts of my identity to put on this platform,” she says.
Ava Sophia still goes to events today, even though she is working on her latest project, You Are
Where You Belong. Growth for her looked like going from being an amateur artist in search of community to finding her voice within a creatively rich diaspora.
“Subdrift was the first place where I interacted as an adult musician in the world,” she adds. “The community has always shown support ever since; it is such an underrated space in Boston.”
Subdrift Boston looks to celebrate ten years on 9/23, with their monthly open mic at the Democracy Center in Cambridge. I had the pleasure of attending the August mic featuring internationally award winning and critically-acclaimed poet Topaz Winters promoting her newest book, So Stranger. Rows of foldable chairs five deep were filled, leaving stragglers standing in the back as performances of comedy, storytelling, Bollywood covers, and poetry blessed the stage.
Midway through, Nochur and fellow co-organizer Payal Kumar paused the mic for community announcements, advocating for anyone with gigs or events coming up to speak so others can be aware and support. When it was mentioned that there was an article being written on the moments that have been curated in this space (which I can’t do justice explaining, not being native to the platform) there was an anxious silence. I sensed, maybe this is intimate on purpose. That regardless of the exposure, cultivating brave spaces for those overlooked within their diaspora breeds a different set of recognition. The type of recognition that allows the voiceless to feel heard.
To find out more about SubDrift, including dates and times of their open mics, follow them on Instagram @subdriftboston or check out their Facebook page.