TIDE project launches an interactive multimedia archive

tide salon homepage, a seascape with 3 words in large font: alien, traveller and savage

The ERC-funded TIDE research project (Travel, Transculturality, and Identity in England, 1550 1700), led by Professor Nandini Das, has launched an exciting new interactive archive, TIDE Salon.

TIDE Salon is a ground-breaking, interactive multimedia collaboration between the TIDE project, the award-winning novelist Preti Taneja, six extraordinary sound and spoken word artists, curator and creative producer Sweety Kapoor, and critically-acclaimed filmmaker Ben Crowe (ERA Films).

Alien, stranger, foreigner, traveller, exile, citizen these words are ubiquitous in contemporary debates about belonging and identity, yet many were shaped by travel, trade, and colonialism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. TIDE Salon installation showcases the work of South Asian classical musicians and British Asian spoken word poets who responded to these TIDE Keywords, drawing on their own personal histories and stories to ask:

  • What do those words mean to us now?
  • How does knowing their meaning and migration change our social world?
  • Can we communicate across form, distance and time to explore the politics of translation and its lived realities?

The digital installation allows visitors to navigate their own routes into literature, music, and the historical archive. These interconnections are meant to replicate the messy, eclectic process of historical research itself, where different ways into source material can influence the stories we tell, and where archives often invite self-reflection and creative expression.

From Drawing Rooms to Digital Realms

Taking the intimate ghar (home)-style salon as its inspiration, TIDE Salon evokes the creative atmosphere of early modern European or Mughal salons, with their mix of scholars, poets, and artists. While the collaboration originally entailed a one-off, ticketed event for a public audience, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns that ensued transformed the project in unexpected ways.

The installation is a salon, port, and archive all at once: a place where different layers of source material mix and mingle, allowing visitors to hear new music, embark on a series of visual and textual discoveries, and gain behind-the-scenes access into the ideas and exchanges that produce creative work. 

–  Nandini Das (ERC-TIDE Project Director)

The installation is framed by three pieces of new writing by Preti Taneja, written as if found by the installation user, but filed by an archivist and a translator working a century on from now. The writing is inspired by, and includes, material drawn from the research process of the actual TIDE researchers, the keywords they collaborated on and material and music provided by the TIDE Salon artists.

The fragments are in a unique form: part translation, part diary of desire [...] Working in oral puns, overheard lyrics, canonical texts, original ideas, and found phrases, the fragments can be read in any order - yet they speak to each other, forming a conversation across the installation and offering a story of TIDE, the Salon artists and our times full of isolation, digital connection and pixelated dreams. 

–  Preti Taneja (Award-winning author of We That Are Young, and TIDE Visiting Writer, 2019-2020)

I sought to bring together artists who embody this complex matrix of space, time, mobility, language, identity, tradition and faith…. The result is a sort of creative register formed of these atmospheric sounds and voices, echoing in turn, the artists’ own histories, memories, conversations, and journeys, not to mention ours as well. The inheritance of words morphs with time, and with the tide

–  Sweety Kapoor (Curator and Creative Producer)

A radical new kind of archive

The interactive installation that has emerged, created by Ben Crowe (director of ERA Films), showcases the pieces produced by the artists and spoken word poets while simultaneously offering an inside look at the process of collaboration and ‘doing’ history. The digital installation allows visitors to navigate their own routes. No two journeys need be the same.

The installation dissolves the boundaries of time to present the artists’ reconfigurations of the relationship between the distant past and the highly-charged political present: it also mirrors a sense of journey and discovery at the heart of creative work, as well as research, and allows people to form their own narratives from the fragments.

 Ben Crowe (Filmmaker and Installation Designer)



Who is involved?

Preti Taneja, internationally-acclaimed novelist (www.preti-taneja.co.uk)

Steve Chandra Savale, guitarist/founding member of Asian Dub Foundation

Sarathy Korwar, tabla and drums/critically acclaimed jazz music artist/trained in Indian classical

Shama Rahman, sitarist, vocalist, music artist/PhD in neuroscience of musical creativity

Ms. Mohammed, Trinidadian-Indian music artist/guitarist/lyricist/singer/music producer

Sanah Ahsan, award-winning spoken word artists/published poet/psychologist

Zia Ahmed – award-winning spoken word artist/playwright/Young Poet Laureate for London

Ben Crowe, director ERA Films (www.erafilms.org)

Sweety Kapoor, curator/creative producer (https://uk.linkedin.com/in/sweety-kapoor)

The TIDE project (http://www.tideproject.uk/people/)

The Humanities Cultural Programme, University of Oxford


TIDE Salon has been supported by funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 681884), and by the University of Oxford as part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities.