Details: Brian O’Connell, Ali Azmat and Salman Ahmed, known as “Sultans of Sufi Rock” will perform at the CAA Centre (formerly the Powerade Centre), 7575 Kennedy Rd. S. at 8 p.m. Contact: For tickets, visit here.
Saturday, Nov. 2
Event: Swayamvar – in Toronto
Details: This singles event for South Asian suitors interested in finding a life partner will take place at the Novotel Hotel Mississauga, 3670 Hurontario St. Mississauga at 1:40 p.m. Contact: For more details, contact here.
Sunday, Nov. 3
Event: Royal Diwali Bash
Details: The Royalton will host its Royal Diwali Bash at 8201 Weston Rd. Woodbridge, Ont. at 5 p.m. with an indoor fire show, dancing, live music, food, etc. Contact: For more information, visit here.
Event: Diwali Celebrations at Chinmaya Mission
Details: The Chinmaya Vedanta Heritage Centre, 8832 The Gore Rd. will celebrate Diwali with Glories of Ramayana with Swami Prakashananda, Head of Chinmaya Mission, Trinidad Soul-touching bhajans and devotional dances, preeti bhoj and fireworks. Contact: For more information, visit here.
Saturday, Nov. 9
Event: Sapan Vermal & Angad Singh
After touring across the world and raking in over 50 million views on the internet, East India Comedy’s Sapan Vermal and Angad Singh Ranyal are bringing their laughs from India. The show takes place at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front St. E. at 7 p.m.
Details: Lavish Dulhan Bridal Show, a bridal show will take place at the Embassy Grand Convention Centre, 8800 The Gore Rd. Brampton, Ont. at 12 noon to 7 p.m. and will include: 100 vendors, an interactive are, couture fashion show, etc. Contact: For more, visit here.
Monday, Nov. 11-12
Event: Inner Engineering by Sadhguru
Details: As there is a science and technology to create external well-being, there is a whole dimension of science and technology for inner well-being ~ Sadhguru. Inner Engineering is a technology for well-being derived from the science of Yoga. It is offered as a comprehensive course for personal growth that brings about a shift in the way you perceive and experience life, your work, and the world that you live in. This two-day event will take place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 222 Bremner Blvd. Toronto. Contact: For tickets, course details, etc. visit here.
Saturday, Nov. 16
Event: Atif Aslam Concert
Details: Pakistani playback singer/composer Atif Aslam, well-known for his Bollywood chartbusters such as Bas ek pal (Tere Bin), khair Mangda (A Flying Jatt), Hoor (Hindi Medium), etc. will perform at the Paramount Centre, 5600 Rose Cherry Pl. Mississauga at 7:30 p.m. Contact: For tickets, etc. visit here.
Saturday, Nov. 23
Event: Taj Express: Bollywood Musical Revue
Details: Taj Express: The Bollywood Musical Revue will run at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front St. E. There are several shows. The musical is set to the soundtrack featuring the songs of A.R. Rahman. It’s a show filled with colour, high-energy music and dance, choreographed by Vaibhavi Merchant and directed by Shru Merchant.
After I accidentally stumbled upon Vidya Vox (Vidya Iyer’s) videos on YouTube, I went on a devouring spree if you will, of her music for weeks afterward.
Every song I listened to demonstrated her incredible ability to meld western pop hits with Indian sounds. What’s more, her music is deeply rooted in her training as a classical musician. She sings in an array of languages: Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, etc.
Even though this blog veers away from the geographic mandate of Toronto Desi Diaries, I hope I can get away with it.
Let’s start with the basics, so, who’s
Indo-American artist and YouTube sensation. Her videos have amassed huge
followings (600 million views and over six million subscribers). She made her
debut on YouTube in 2015, since then she has had dozens of chartbusters. In
2017, Vidya dropped her debut EP of original songs in Kuthu Fire.
While on a pre-med track at George Washington University, Vidya began to indulge in her passion for music. She did so by posting YouTube videos. Upon graduation, Vidya took the leap and decided to pursue a music career full time.
With over 153 million views, one of Vidya’s most successful videos, Be Free, is an original song from Kuthu Fire. This song is mixed with the Malayalam folk song “Pallivaalu Bhadravattakam.” Vidya’s mashups have since gained worldwide recognition from the likes of Major Lazer, Diplo & Hrithik Roshan.
This Kerala boat song is my favourite. It evokes memories of my childhood.
What’s new with Vidya’s music?
In July this year, Vidya released Mad Dreams. This album features five original songs (songs written by Vidya and composer Shanker Tucker) that exhibit the American desi’s ease in both worlds —U.S. and India.
In her own words: Vidya Vox
About Mad Dreams
Growing up in the west as a first-generation Indian-American, I always felt like I was living a double life.
At home, I was immersed in a traditional Indian culture, eating dosas, singing Carnatic music, and listening to A.R. Rahman, and the second I stepped on my school bus, I would eat pizza and listen to Destiny’s Child and Backstreet Boys. At school, I was an outcast and felt embarrassed about being different. Mad Dreams represents a pivotal time in my journey to reclaim and embrace my bicultural identity while sharing messages of hope and empowerment.
Here’s what she says on each of the five
Appadi Podu Di
Is incredibly personal. As only 1 of 2 Indian kids in middle school, the other kids had many questions for me. ‘Does your house smell like curry?’ ‘Why are your elbows so dark?’ All questions were about why I looked different. To this day, we are sold products and images to cover these “differences.” I took all the things that were said to me and reclaimed them in this song. My favorite line is Dark knees, dark eyes, no powder, my sun-filled skin holds power. The lyric Appadi Podu Di, in Tamil literally translates to “Give it back!” and my uncle often said it to me growing up as a reaction to one of my snarky comebacks. As a South Asian woman, this song is an anthem about loving the skin you’re in.
was inspired by the story of Indian goddess Parvati, who was doing penance to gain the affections of Lord Shiva, the Destroyer and Lord of Dance. The mridangam and chalanga dance bell sound in the chorus are traditional sounds used in traditional Shiva songs. Hearing this story growing up, Parvati’s concentration always amazed me. I always wondered, would this infatuation and chase drive her mad? She’s in her world of mad dreams.
is about the process of taking risks and finding your footing, which is difficult but always worthwhile. I always feel better in the end. I tend to hide in my cocoon when the going gets tough. However, it’s important to be proud of who you are, take a leap of faith and find your wings!
Lose the Night
is about a particular memory of when Shankar and I were visiting New Delhi many years ago. We were in an auto-rickshaw driving around at night. It was hot and hazy, and although the streets were crowded, it felt like we were the only two people in the city.
Look at the Lights
Brings me back to when I was living with my mom. I had big dreams of moving to Los Angeles. Some days, I felt that I’d never be able to leave home. Other days, I was more hopeful. Making the move to Los Angeles was life-changing, but once the lights went out, I still missed home. The instrumental sarangi line that echoes throughout the chorus represents a longing for home, wherever you may be.
is available on iTunes, Spotify, and all streaming platforms.
Shilompoli Shethra Dance Academy will present Aaru Padai Veedu, a dance drama
based on the six holy places of Lord Muruga. The event is happening at the
Chinese Cultural Centre, 5183 Sheppard Ave. E. Scarborough at 5 p.m.
Details: Harita Desai
and Rajan Desai will perform at the Svarita Cultural Forum’s Garba. The event
will take place at Bramalea Secondary School, 510 Balmoral Dr. Brampton from 8
Contact: Cost of tickets is $18/person and can be purchased here
Saturday, Oct. 12-13
Event: Navratri Garba
Details: Ma Ambe
Entertainment presents the Sri Atul Purohit Navratri Garba 2019 at the
International Centre, 6900 Airport Rd., Mississauga Saturday, Oct. 12-13 at 7
p.m. on both the days. There will be an Indian food festival hosted by Veggie
Planet at the venue.
Contact: Cost of tickets is $25 + service fee ($0.75) and can be purchased here
Wednesday, Oct. 16
Dance Creations will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Living
Arts Centre with a kinetic work that bridges the gap between Tibetan Buddhists
and Hinduism through music and dance. The event runs at the Living Arts Centre,
4141 Living Arts Dr. Mississauga at 7p.m.
San Francisco native Sid Sriram blends eastern and western sounds with his
pop/soul, alternative music. He will perform at the Danforth Music Hall, 147
Danforth Ave., Toronto at 7 p.m.
Details: The Alliance
for South Asian AIDS Prevention will host its Queer-wali celebration at 459
Church St. (2nd floor), Toronto at 5:30 p.m. There will be drag
performances by Seema Dikshit, a bazaar and more
That’s precisely how I felt when the good folks at C2C Communications reached out inquiring if Toronto Desi Diaries wanted to chat with any of the renowned authors scheduled to speak at the Jaipur Literary Festival —Toronto (JLF) ?
The event running Friday, Sept. 27-29 at Toronto’s historic Distillery District has dozens of author sessions with literary giants such as Amitava Kumar (Immigrant Montana: A Novel), Anosh Irani (The Bombay Plays: The Matka King & Bombay Black), MG Vassanji (The Gunny Sack), Vikas Swarup (Q&A which became the mega-successful Slumdog Millionaire), etc.
I confess I was l salivating at the prospect of interviewing some of the literary superstars whose pens have inspired millions of people around the world, including myself.
So, what’s JLF?
Here’s a rather apt definition of the festival on its website. “JLF Toronto recreates the magnificent spirit of Jaipur’s annual literary carnival bringing its inclusive and infectious camaraderie to the vibrant capital of Ontario with a heady mix of writers, thinkers, poets, balladeers, and raconteurs.”
In this blog, festival producer and managing director of Teamwork Arts Sanjoy Roy shares some interesting perspectives.
Here’s more from Sanjoy. Enjoy.
TDD. What can Toronto audiences expect from JLF?
SR: JLF will bring to Toronto a flavour of what we do in many parts of the world. A diverse program reflective of our philosophy to address local writers and their issues of identity, belonging, migration, travel, food, philosophy, science, fiction, and poetry.
TDD. What went into the planning of JLF – Toronto? Will the audience get a glimpse of India via its literature, history, and the lineup of authors?
SR: JLF brings India to the world and takes the world to
India. In the international editions, JLF explores each others’ stories and
creates platforms for excellence and the written word.
TDD. Hosting art festivals in a world ravaged by divisiveness, political and religious strife and what-not, seems like a brilliant idea, how have you been able to make this festival economically viable? Relevant?
SR: Politics is a reality of all times, divisiveness too.
What sets our times apart is the new narrative of hatred which has become the
dominant voice. Art and literature are one of many ways to bridge the divide
and bring to pass the fear of the other.
Festivals take time to break even and create traditional
wealth. What they do is create intangible wealth and contribute enormously to
TDD. Who are your favourite writers? Anything you read recently that made putting the book down difficult?
SR: I tend to read 5 – 6 books at a time. I am presently
reading William Dalrymple’s Anarchy, Namita
Gokhale’s Things to leave behind, Sandeep
Unnithan’s Operation X on the Bangladesh
war, Anoush Irani’s The parcel and Sharad
Paul’s book on genetics.
TDD. Can you share an anecdote or two from the previous JLFs? something that you look back on and chuckle or something that was profoundly deep?
SR: There are numerous stories – from lost passports and mislaid documents, to trees falling, protestors vowing to destroy us, controversies that are as old as history, incredible sessions where you learn and celebrate knowledge and so much more
TDD. One or two pieces of advice to aspiring writers…
SR: Write not necessarily to entertain but because you have the volition to write. Bury your ego and listen to your inner voice.
Post Script: The JLF has several free outdoor street festival and marketplace. For the full schedule, tickets, etc. visit here.
Details: This is undoubtedly one of the biggest events happening in Mississauga this weekend. The 2019 MuslimFest featuring an array of performers, vendors, artists, etc. will take place at the Celebration Square in Mississauga for three days. Contact: For schedule and more, visit here
Monday, Sept. 2
Event: Kal, aaj aur
kal with Tushar Shukla
Details: Tushar Shukla, a poet, radio personality and author, and Kaajal Oza Vaidya, author and screenwriter will be at the Michael Power-St. Joseph High School, 105 Eringate Dr. in Etobicoke at 5 p.m. for an intellectual conversation.
Details: One of North
America’s biggest film festivals kicks off Sept. 5-15 this year across various
venues. Each year, the festival welcomes several Bollywood actors, directors
and industry stalwarts. The Sky is Pink, starring Priyanka Chopra and Farhan Akhtar
is part of this year’s offering.
Contact: For schedules, red carpets, etc. visit here
Saturday, Sept. 7
Event: Falguni Pathak
Details: The dandiya
queen of India Falguni Pathak will be at the International Centre, 6900 Airport
Rd., Mississauga at 7 p.m. for Dandiya Dhoom.
Details: This event
featuring traditional Ras Garba with Darshana Thaker and Vishnu Joshi will take
place at the Evergreen Senior Community Centre, 683 Woolwich St. in Guelph,
Ont. starting at 6:30 p.m.
Foundation will host a two-day spiritual retreat at the Guruvayurappan Temple
of Brampton, 2580 Countryside Dr., in Brampton Sept. 7-8. The event will be
guided by Swami Chidananda Puri, Muktananda Yati and Divakaran Nambudiri and
feature, discourses, discussions, Q&A, meditation, etc.
Details: This classical music event by Raag Mala will take place at the Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr. in Toronto at 7 p.m. It will feature Shubada Joshi-Athawale (harmonium), Vidushi Arati Ankalikar (vocalist), Mukta Raste (Tabla). This event is part of our 2019/20 Performing Arts season, Listening to Each Other, which pays tribute to the role of the performative arts in connecting communities, preserving culture, and spurring social change.
Details: This Punjabi cultural event is taking place at the Speranza Hall, 510 Deerhurst Dr. in Brampton at noon. Artists include Gurnam Bhullar, Rajvir Jawanda, Mankirt Aulakh, Harjit Harman and others.
Contact: For tickets,
contact: Gift Emporium (Airport and Morningstar) or call 905-677-8686
Saturday, Sept. 21
Details: This is the
first year for the Brampton-based event hosted by PGA International. The
905FEST featuring performances by local artists, food, activities for children,
etc. will take place outside the Sheridan College, Davis Campus, 7899
McLaughlin Rd. in Brampton between 2-10 p.m. This year’s proceeds will benefit SHIVAS
(Shining Hope in Vital Autism Society) a not-for-profit organization.
Event: Red Carpet, Mosaic International South Asian Festival (MISSAF)
Details: The Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival (MISAFF) returns for its 7th year from Aug.1–4. This year, the festival will showcase women-centric films as well as stories of familial struggles, love, etc. The red carpet/opening gala will take place at Cineplex, 309 Rathburn Rd., Mississauga at 6 p.m.
Details: Head to the Toronto Public Library
– Fairview Branch, 35 Fairview Mall Dr., North York at 6:30 p.m. to listen to
Nrutha Kala Kendra’s Thyaga Panchakam, a dance odyssey inspired by the
Pancharatna kritis. This dance and music extravaganza celebrates Saint
Thyagaraja and will take the audience on a spiritual journey.
Details: the Berklee Indian Ensemble, along with Grammy-winning vocalist Vijay Prakash will perform at the Long & McQuade Performance Hall, 4 Pardee Ave. Toronto, for an intimate and interactive live to Air performance on Thursday, August 8 at 7 p.m. Contact: For tickets and more contact 1-800-811-2400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Details: The Qaawali Music in Contemporary Pakistan with Umair Jaffar will take place at the Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr., Toronto at 1 p.m. Umair will explore the changing face of qawwali, a devotional genre of music thought to have originated in Sufi shrines. Is the soul of qawwali fading? Umair delves into these questions and unravels the various interpretations of qawwali music in contemporary Pakistan.
Details: The 14th Annual Mosaic Festival is taking place at the Celebration Square, 300 City Centre Dr., in Mississauga at 7 p.m. This year’s performers include: Ali Sethi, Vijay Prakash from India, Berklee College of Music Indian Ensemble from Boston, Shiamak Toronto Dance, Irshad Khan ensemble. and more. The festival runs from 5-10 p.m. on both days.
Contact: For the full festival schedule, visit here.
Saturday, Aug. 10
Event: Flower City Bhangra
Details: Dubbed as one of the most popular events in North America, the Flower City Bhangra is taking place The Rose Theatre in Brampton. The festival is hosted by Saath Foundation, a registered not-for-profit whose aim is to raise awareness about social problems. The competition will kick off at 1 p.m.
Details: This annual event commemorating
India’s Independence Day will take place at the Nathan Phillips Square from 10
a.m. to 10 p.m. Panorama India is hosted with the support of Consul General of
India. Bollywood actress Lara Dutta will be the parade grand marshal.
Details: Enjoy five days and four nights of the cruise on a private chartered ship from Palm Beach, Florida to Grand Bahama and Nassau Bahamas. The cruise will feature Bollywood music, a meet-and-greet with artists and more.
The good folks at the Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) not only orchestrate a couple of great outdoor concerts in Brampton and Mississauga with A list performers, each year, but they have always given Toronto Desi Diaries access to the artists. So, here’s a big shout out to all the behind-the-scenes wizards handling social media, PR, stage, and all the promotional duties. You guys, rock.
But, before you dive right into my Q&A with Nikhita Gandhi, here’s what you need to know about the July 2019 concerts:
What: The 9th Bollywood Monster Mashup
When: July 18-20 with back-to-back concerts happening at Mississauga’s
Who: Nikhita will take on the stage on Friday, July 19, and on Saturday, July 20, enjoy the soulful melodies of Yasser Desai with the man himself. You may have heard of Yasser’s voice belting out (Pallo Latke) and my absolute favourite Naino ne baandi from the Akshay Kumar starrer, Gold. Friday’s show will also feature performances by Reign Yash Academy, Parichay, Waris Virse De, Peace & Love and R&B United Band.
Saturday evening witness The Shiamak Showkids, The Band Destiny, Nick Ft. Vedik Vibez Orchestra, Ankita Music, Desi Muziko Band, and Mehboob Orchestra, plus, the annual #BollywoodMonster Orchestra ( Vikas Kohli) will be teaming up with Univox Choir to perform hit songs from Bajirao Mastani, Agneepath and other films with over 20 voices on stage. How’s that for a monster celebration, eh?
“Nine years in, and we
keep upping the ante on the free concerts and free activities for families in
Mississauga, the GTA, across Ontario, and beyond,” noted Vikas Kohli, artistic
director, MonstrARTity. “From Bollywood stars with their debut Canadian
performance, to brilliant dance performances, KidZone crafts and games, food,
shopping and more. Come on out and join us as we sing, dance and eat all
In conversation with Nikhita Gandhi
Pursuing her musical dreams meant, Nikhita, 27, had to ditch her plans to become a dental surgeon (she was in her fourth year of school) when fate staggered and took an unexpected turn, leading her into the world of music. Nikhita’s idyllic childhood in Calcutta was spent in hours of riyaz (practice). Whether it was classical Hindustani music, Odissi dance or hitting the textbooks, this self-professed nerd appears to have mastered it all.
Since her debut in 2015, Nikhita has delivered a string of chart-toppers include Raabta, Qaafirana from Kedarnath, Ullu ka patha with Arjit from Jagga Jassos, Madaari from the Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir, and dozens of others including some regional hits.
Nikhita shares some details of her life including some surprising talents (hint: let’s say she’ll be more than at home at the Home Depot or Lowe’s).
Toronto Desi Diaries (TDD): How you became interested in music?
NG: I am a “quintessential Bong.” My family (Bengali/Punjabi) is from Calcutta. Culture is huge in Bengal and so, that’s something I imbibed.
TDD: How was your life in Chennai?
NG: I moved to Chennai to do my bachelor’s in dental surgery. It (Chennai) is where I met Rahman sir (AR Rahman) and it was where I recorded my first song as a professional musician (Ladio).
TDD: Was there an ‘aha’ moment for you when your path as a singer became clear?
NG: When I started working with Rahman sir, I was still in college. So, everything that came my way, I took it as an experience, more than a change or a new chapter.
The ‘aha’ moment was when I met Rahman sir after my first song and he asked me what my plans were. I told him, “Sir, I am in my final year and my plan is to finish this (dental surgery) and maybe do my master’s.” He looked at me and said, “Are you serious? You’re now a singer. This is your life, now.”
And that was a defining moment.
TDD: What’s the life of a playback singer like?
NG: I am fairly new and just getting used to the rhythm out here in Mumbai. A typical day could be one that starts at 4 or 5 a.m. all the way until 3 a.m. the following morning. Or it could be one when I have nothing to do, so I am rehearsing or doing my own shows and cultivating my art. I am also a composer and songwriter. It’s all very unpredictable. I am a workaholic and love to keep busy.
TDD: What does an aspiring singer need to do in order to make it in the cut-throat music industry?
NG: There’s no formula, so, I can’t speak for everybody. But one thing I have been clear about is that; I always want to be true to myself. Whatever I do, I do what’s right. I don’t do things because it will position me in a certain way. I believe in hard work. I have enjoyed the journey because I think if you have a positive outlook, it makes things so much fun and interesting.
TDD: Who are your favourite singers, composers?
NG: I have been blessed to be able to work with the crème de la crème in my nascent years in the industry. Composers such as A.R Rahman, Pritam da, Sachin-Jigar, Amit Trivedi, Vishal Bhardwaj, Vishal-Shekhar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, etc. I am really excited at some of the stuff that’s in the pipeline.
Singers? I sang my first Bollywood song with Arjit Singh.. he’s so fabulous. I love Sasha’s voice. I am a person who loves textures. I am a die-hard fan of Abida Parveen and other singers with amazing unique sounds.
TDD: What’s your most favourite thing to do?
NG: My most favourite thing to do is to dance to some song that’s been stuck in my head. I love dancing alone. When I have a chill day to myself, I play the tune that I have been listening to in a loop and dance. It’s the most liberating thing…
TDD: Who’s on your playlist?
NG: There are a lot of artists I have been tripping on – Post Malone, Kehlani (Ashley), Daniel Caesar(R&B) and others.
TDD: One thing no one knows about you?
NG: I am a real nerd. I
also love fixing things and making furniture. At home, I am an electrician,
painter and what not. I have a tool kit with drills, hammers, etc.
TDD: What can we expect from your upcoming performance at Bollywood Monster Mashup?
NG: I am really excited about performing at the Bollywood Monster Mashup. This will be my first public show in Canada. I am going to perform all of my songs including some of my regional stuff. So, please do come, whatever community you belong to. I am going to give a little something to everybody. It’s going to be super versatile and interesting.