• Edane Ng

I first arrived in the UK from Malaysia to study music at the Royal Northern College of Music. My fondest memory from freshman year was connecting with fellow international students. We were eager to form a supportive community, sharing our diverse cultures.

One aspect of my migration journey that fills me with pride is my multicultural background. Growing up in a multiracial country, exposure to various cultural forms was a natural part of my life, and I effortlessly navigated three languages. Despite my focus on studying classical music, this rich cultural background has significantly enriched my perspectives- to always be open-minded into learning about other cultures and backgrounds.

I didn’t see myself as a migrant until I delved into its meaning through this programme.

Understanding more about the term “migrant” inspired me to take on this role as an Ambassador as I realised that many, like me, possess misconceptions, even negative perceptions, about it.

Google “migrants” and 95% of the headlines are overwhelmingly negative. However, migration encompasses more than just its challenges; it has brought about numerous positive impacts that have enriched the UK. 

Consider the programs of renowned venues like Bridgewater Hall, the BBC, Royal Albert Hall, and Barbican—many of their featured artists are international artists. They are often perceived solely as contributors to the realm of pure art but it's important to pause and question the origins of our musical roots and the wellsprings of our inspiration.

The Russian classical composer Igor Stravinsky experienced multiple relocations during his lifetime due to political upheavals. His changing environments likely had an impact on his musical evolution, such as him writing one of his most renowned works, Firebird, and premiered it in Paris, instead of his own country, under Ballets Russes, an itinerant ballet company founded in Paris by Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev.

Another good and current example is Abel Selacoe, a South-African renowned composer and cellist who moved to the UK, combining virtuosic performance with improvisation, singing and body percussion from his home country. He has a special interest in curating recital programmes that highlight the links between Western and non-Western musical traditions, with a view to helping classical music reach a more diverse audience. His music shows clear signs of migration. 

Understanding the current political landscape of culture, particularly in the UK, made me realise the power of acknowledging myself as a migrant. It brings forth a social responsibility, casting me not just as an artist but as a representative—one who values society as much as art. I hope to encourage my fellow colleagues to view ourselves not just as classical musicians but also as proud migrants. Embracing this identity comes with a social responsibility; we possess a powerful voice, and our diverse culture should be celebrated and appreciated.

In my role as the director of Daring Artists, our debut project, "Healing Our Child Within," aims to raise awareness about the long-term impact of child abuse on adulthood by incorporating classical music animation into performances. We strive to authentically depict the experiences of child abuse by collecting firsthand narratives and collaborating directly with survivors who contribute as artists and poets. The project can only happen by having in-depth conversations with a diverse group of individuals, including locals and migrants from various backgrounds as these discussions were crucial in unravelling the ways cultural influences contribute to the experiences of trauma. This inclusive approach has enabled us to explore avenues for collective healing and support among survivors.

My journey as a creative in the UK began with migration, seeing the country as an opportunity for vibrant experiences, learning, and experimentation. Today, I aim for the UK to see me as someone capable of contributing meaningfully to its society in return.

Although classical music is undeniably an art form, I personally perceive it as a craft—a testament to the exceptional skills of revered composers who have created renowned musical compositions. There's a wealth of inspiration to draw from alternative artistic mediums when it comes to creativity and social engagement. Consider immersive theatre productions by Punchdrunk, revolutionary sculptures and installations by Es Devlin, or artists like William Kentridge and Nalini Malani who channel political themes in their works.

As a current Young Producer of the Young Producers Scheme at the Royal Albert Hall, I am actively engaged in the design and learning aspects of curating immersive installations for our upcoming event with a social theme- rebellion. My goal is to incorporate these learnings into future projects produced by The Daring Artists, to enhance classical music experiences to be not only socially engaged but also accessible and visually compelling. And this journey wouldn't have been possible without my migration to the UK.