The future of Australian music will be closely tied with that of the rising popularity of contemporary music from Asia, at least that’s the projections and belief of Australia’s Federal Arts Minister Simon Crean.

Mr Crean is currently abroad in India helping Australian music make an impact on international culture as part of the Music Connects India conference in Mumbai, delivering a keynote speech about the importance of contemporary music to the growing cultural connection between both countries.

“As India’s music industry rises to global significance we want Australian voices to be prominent both as recording and touring artists, and for Indian voices to feature equally prominently in our music industry,” said Mr Crean, who is helping finalise Australia’s new National Cultural Policy, the first revision in nearly two decades.

The conference also saw a number of Australian acts dazzling Mumbai’s Hard Rock Cafe at the Aussie BBQ Concert held last night, part of the Oz Fest program to “promote the vibrancy, innovation and diversity of Australia’s contemporary culture,” Mr Crean said.

Perth prog masters Karnivool and Melbourne’s beloved duo Big Scary joined the likes of Sydney indies Jinja Safari, dance mavericks The Aston Shuffle and Brisbane’s Sheppard in a concert that showcased some of the best and brightest that Australian music has to offer, all part of the cultural exchange and cooperation that was being promoted by Crean’s visit to the country.

“The people-to-people links forged through events such as Oz Fest and The Aussie BBQ open up new opportunities for cultural engagement and strengthen our business, political and trade relationships in India and the rest of Asia,” said Mr Crean, saying the concert “is symbolic of the growing global influence of [Australian] music.”

The MP’s visit was prompted by the recently released Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, which hopes to build on Australia’s strong historical, trade and cultural relationships in Asia. “It will strengthen our creative bonds and provide a focus for cultural diplomacy and people-to-people links to build on our longstanding relationship with India,” added the Federal Arts Minister.“The people-to-people links forged through events such as Oz Fest and The Aussie BBQ open up new opportunities…

Mr Crean also emphasised Australia’s appreciation of contemporary artists from Asian countries at his keynote address at the Music Connects conference.

“America and Great Britain are no longer the Meccas of rock, pop and their countless sub-genres. Bollywood music and the growth of K-Pop, for example, have become powerful music phenomena – new genres with global significance,” he said. “Just last week PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’ – from South Korea – was Australia’s number one hit and A.R. Rahman’s soundtrack for the film Slumdog Millionaire was enormously popular as were his Australian concerts,”

Also emphasising the growing financial investment the Federal Government was injecting to develop cultural initiatives. “The $3 million the Australian Government invested in contemporary music in this year’s budget will produce dividends for the nation,” said Mr Crean. “A creative society is a more productive society – both economically and socially – which is why the Australian Government is supporting our music industry to strengthen our engagement with the Asia region at an artistic and business level.”

“We have a unique cultural story to tell – one that the rest of the world wants to hear,” added the MP, with music playing an important part in that story. “Music is at the vanguard of the growing cultural connection between Australia and Asia and our artists will play an important role in the growth of our creative economy and our success in the Asian Century.”

Mr Crean also spruiked some of the successful statistics that the contemporary Australian music industry had been enjoying of late, as the “sixth largest music market in the world, worth some $2 billion each year” as well as supporting more than 14,800 jobs, while some 42 million people attended live music performances last year, spanning almost 4,000 venues.

Speaking of the The Aussie BBQ event, Minister Crean also name-checked Triple J’s important role, while calling the headlining bands like Karnivool and Big Scary “part of a generation of bands which are mixing it with the best in the world – indie bands like The Jezabels, Gotye and synthpop acts like Cut Copy are selling out internationally and achieving worldwide acclaim.”“We have a unique cultural story to tell – one that the rest of the world wants to hear,”

Crean’s address also noted Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s visit to India last month, “and together with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, acknowledged the strengthening of ties in recent years and agreed there was great potential for further growth in the relationship.” Part of that growth included future collaborations between the Australian and Indian music industries.

“The breadth and quality of Australian music, and our country’s strong cultural connections with India, make collaborations between our musicians, producers and music businesses, an obvious goal to set our sights on,” he added.

Simon Crean also confirmed that the Federal Government are “finalising Australia’s first National Cultural Policy in 20 years” with an aim to “plug the arts and creative industries into the mainstream of modern Australia, because we know creative societies are productive and resilient societies.” Calling the investment in the music industry “an essential investment a Government must make.”

In his conclusion, the MP noted that “the deep cultural connections between Australia and India are growing, and this conference shows that music is at the vanguard of this change.” Closing by saying:

 I look forward to the day when an Australian contemporary music artist becomes the most popular performer in India. I look forward to the day when an Indian contemporary artist becomes the most popular performer in Australia. I look forward to the day when a musical collaboration between India and Australia makes number 1 in both countries. What we are doing through our investment and our engagement is laying the foundation for that to occur.

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