An unassuming ranch-style home sits at the end of a winding driveway in Tucker. The quiet suburban residence houses Soku DeNova Records – a state-of-the-art recording studio filled with shiny electronics and sleek furnishings. Inside, founders/producers Najib Haque and Mike Li inspire an infectious creative energy.
Haque and Li met as undergrads at Emory in 2004. The two bonded over their similar backgrounds as classically trained musicians with a penchant for incorporating traditional sounds from their respective Indian and Asian cultures. Shortly after graduation, they formed Soku DeNova with the intent to make records that were as likely to feature Persian drum kits as Chinese flutes.
As they worked on refining their sound, Li and Haque started to envision a platform for their music that would double as a community-building exercise. Fusion was born.
Sparks of shared excitement fly between the duo as they explain the multidimensional showcase of dance, music and video. "Fusion's not just a show; it's a philosophy," Li says. "It paints a picture where people take the best from their cultures and embrace it while incorporating it all."
Emory's campus and its plethora of multicultural dance groups, ranging from Zeebah's traditional Persian belly dance to the Brotherhood of Afrocentric Men's stomping, helped inspire Fusion. Haque and Li wondered what would happen if they told the dance groups to pair off, incorporate one another's movements and choreograph new dances set to Soku DeNova's music.
In October 2006, they brought the idea to Emory professor Alex Escobar, chairman of the Emory President's Commission on Race and Ethnicity. He encouraged them, and after seven months of approvals and rehearsals, Fusion premiered.
Fusion performers are taped from their first meetings through final rehearsals to create video skits, which air above the stage prior to each performance. The footage depicts the interactions between the students and their shifts in perceptions throughout their time together. "Art is the perfect channel to open people's minds," Haque says. "It's the easiest way to communicate."
Haque, Li and the dancers attest to Fusion bringing people together who would rarely interact under normal circumstances. Tina Anand, co-captain of SP Lockdown, the combined effort of breakdance team Skeleton Crew and modern group Panache, is so effervescent in the descriptions of her Fusion experience that she could write its promotional material.
"People [have come to] expect the end product of any Fusion dance to be amazing," Anand says. "They know the time that's put into the show and the end product is truly remarkable, just amazing."
She also touches on the success of Fusion's documentary portion: "It's not so much just the dance; it's the story behind it. The crowd gets so into it because it's more about a performance."
Now in its third year, Fusion is branching out into the community and other Atlanta colleges. There may even be a spin-off reality series in its future. "We want to look back on this and be able to say we're starting a new artistic revolution," Li says. "We hope it can change the cultural landscape of this country and eventually the world."
For more info, photos and videos from past Fusion shows, please visit www.fusionatlanta.org.