Oct. ’15 brings Krishna, the musical, garba, garba and more garbaa

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Malayali film actress Shobana is bringing a visual treat Krishna, a musical to Oakville, Sunday, Oct. 4. Check out other desi events happening in the GTA, October 2015.

filmi21Thursday, Oct. 1

Event: Filmi Toronto
Details: FILMI is an annual Toronto film festival that showcases the best in South Asian cinema from Canada and the rest of the world. This year, the festival will celebrate its 16th anniversary with a full schedule of screenings and industry workshops from Oct. 1 – 4.
Contact: For listings, schedule and more, contact here.

Garba-dance3Saturday, Oct. 3
Event: Dandiya Raas Garba
Details: Sur Prem Entertainers are bringing a dandiya event to Brampton Soccer Centre, 1495 Sandalwood Pkwy. E. at 7:30 p.m.
Contact: For tickets contact here.

Event: Hindustani Classical MusicKomkali
Details: Raag-Mala Music Society of Toronto and the Centre for South Asian Civilizations UTM are hosting Bhuvanesh Komkali at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3 at the MiST Theatre, U of T Mississauga Campus, 3359 Mississauga Road, Mississauga.
Bhuvanesh a Hindustani classical singer from the Gwalior gharana is the grandson of legendary gayak Kumar Gandharva. He will be accompanied by Sanjay Deshpande (tabla) and Vyasmurti Katti (harmonium). Tickets cost $30/person.
Contact: Here
sargamEvent: Concert
Details: Sadhana Sargam and Jubin Shah will perform at the Armenian Youth Centre, 50 Hallcrown Pl. in North York (Victoria Park and Sheppard) at 6:30 p.m. Event hosted by Toronto Indian Youth Cultural Association (TIYC) Canada.
Contact: 416-998-0582

Sunday, Oct. 4

Event: Shobana’s Krishna12049635_961990323857837_1338590592335995599_n
Details: Blue Sapphire Entertainment Inc. is bringing Krishna, a visual tapestry of dance/drama by Shobana, well-known Malayalam actor/dancer/choreographer. The show will take place at The Meeting House, 2700 Bristol House in Oakville at 6:30 p.m. The English version of Krishna was conceived and created by Shobana after years of rigorous research, and practice. The doe-eyed beauty plays Krishna and will be accompanied by a troupe of 16 artists including her daughter Narayani.
Contact: For tickets visit here of contact here.

Saturday, Oct. 10

Sukvinder_kanikaEvent:  Concert
Details: Sukvinder Singh and Kanika Kapoor, two Bollywood playback singers, whose pipes have been wowing filmgoers, will be performing a concert at the Sony Centre of performing arts, 1 Front St. E. at 6:30 p.m.
Contact: For tickets, visit here.

Sunday, Oct. 11

Event: Raas Garbadandiya sticks
Details: Power of Kirtan will be presenting an interactive Raas Garba with Premash Nandi and group at Harold M. Brathwaite Secondary School, 415 Great Lakes Dr. from 7 p.m. onwards. A free vegetarian meal will be served.
Contact: For tickets and information, visit here.

Saturday, Oct. 17

Event: GarbaDMG garba
Details: Dhamalmasti Group (DMG) is hosting a garba with Gitanajli Group at the Hershey Centre, 5600 Rose Cherry Place, Mississauga at 7 p.m.
Contact: Here.

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Canada’s “Bajrangi Behen” brings her magical chants to Toronto

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Canada's Bajrangi Behen Brenda McMorrow seen here with a ascetic on the banks of Ganges. Brenda is a mantra music artist whose music bridges the spiritualism of east with the west. Supplied photo.

Canada’s Bajrangi Behen Brenda McMorrow seen here with a ascetic on the banks of Ganges. Brenda is a mantra music artist whose music bridges the spiritualism of east with the west. Supplied photo.

Years ago, I stumbled upon the haunting sounds of Gregorian Chants and felt a wave of tranquility wash over me, but I did not however set off in the pursuit of mastering the complex Latin verses. Once the moment passed, the memory too fled.

So, when I heard about how Brenda McMorrow began to pursue mantra music after listening to some shlokas few years ago, I simply had to know the why? When? What-on-the-earth for?

Who knew I would have the pleasure of unveiling the identity of Canada’s bona fide Bajrangi Behen.

Good news: you can catch Brenda at a kirtan concert happening in our wonderful city. British Columbia native Brenda McMorrow is the real deal. She can, not only recite the Hanuman Chalisa and other Vedic chants, but can speak about their meaning and relevance.

(For those unfamiliar with Bollywood: In the Hindi blockbuster Bajrangi Bhaijaan, the main character played by Salman Khan is shown as an endearing and ardent devotee of Hanuman aka Bajrangbali).

Brenda’s rendition of the mantra music is upbeat and infused with western influences. But that’s not all. When Brenda is paying homage to the verses, her face radiates with inner peace. Little wonder then that, this Canuck describes herself as a “true bhakt walking along the devotional path of yoga”.

Canadian artist Brenda McMorrow performs at kirtan concerts across the world. Supplied photo

Canadian artist Brenda McMorrow performs at kirtan concerts across the world. Supplied photo

You are probably wondering what would compel a white woman to dedicate herself into learning a dead language (Sanskrit) and gain mastery over it so much so she’s guided through some force of nature to compose, sing, cut records and host Kirtans around the world?

Before her serendipitous introduction to the shlokas, Brenda was rock/folk/bluegrass artist. Then, in 2004, she heard some Sanskrit chants during a yoga workshop. She had no clue what they were, but they stirred something in her.

“The first time I heard mantra chanting, I knew at every level, that that was what I

was meant to do,” she says.

Three years ago, she recorded her version of the Hanuman Chalisa and has since performed it in cities across Europe, Asia, North and South America. In fact, Brenda has recorded two versions of the Chalisa: the windblown and heart version.

Last year, Brenda travelled to Varanasi and was invited to sing the Chalisa on the banks of the Ganges at Tulsi Ghat before the evening’s aarti and later at the Sankat Mochan temple.

“Little did we know that this would be the most enthusiastically participated in rendition of the Windblown Hanuman Chalisa, ever,” she writes about that experience. “Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that we were playing right below Tulsi Das’ residence (the writer of the Hanuman Chalisa).”

On Friday, Sept. 25 Brenda will hosting a kirtan concert at the St. George’s Anglican Church at 410 College St. (one block east of Bathurst) at 8 p.m. Tickets cost S25/person and $35/person (premium).

Also, Brenda’s new album My Heart Bows Down to You, by White Swan Records will be released Sept. 18.

Tickets to the concert can be bought online and via Pay Pal or through www.anahatatimes.com.

Artist takes elements of Rangoli and boy, does he run with it

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Canadian artist Praksh Shirke fills in the snout of a grizzly bear with coloured sand. Prakash has taken the ancient Indian art of Rangoli and transformed it.

Canadian artist Praksh Shirke fills in the snout of a grizzly bear with coloured sand. Prakash has taken the ancient Indian art of Rangoli and transformed it.

I am no stranger to Kolam or Rangoli as it’s more popularly known. Many of you will know it as Aripana, Madana and Chowkpurna.

Growing up, most mornings, my Mom would wash the courtyard and then do a quick geometric design with powdered rice flour. On special occasions, she would mix the powder in water and do a wet Kolam. That’s the thing with culture; there are always elements that are common to people irrespective of which part of India you come from.

So, when I heard about a Rangoli exhibition by Prakash Shirke, a Canadian artist, I imagined a more elaborate and intricate version of Amma’s kolam.

I was mistaken.

Narendra Modi and Abdul Kalam shared the room with a fierce Grizzly bear and a resplendent sunset or was it sunrise and at the far end was Guru Gobind Singhji? The colourful pieces had photograph-like clarity.

Prakash captures the serenity of Shri Guru Gobind with stunning results. The image was created using powdered sand.

Prakash captures the serenity of Shri Guru Gobind Singhji with stunning results. The image was created using powdered sand.

Prakash is showcasing his stunning sand-art or Rangoli until Saturday, Sept. 13 at 75 Clarence St. in Brampton in a plaza near Kennedy Road and Queen Street. If you have time, check it out. Show hours are: Mon-Fri: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on the weekend (Sat-Sun), you can watch Prakash draw the Rangoli, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The artist’s eye for details was astounding: He captures the skin tones, the texture of wavy locks of Abdul Kalam’s hair and the predatory gleam on the grizzly’s eyes, not with paint, but sand.

The work was not only intricate, but it required Prakash to spend some 12 hours daily inside a stuffy room (the air conditioner was on fritz) creating art pieces that should ideally be preserved for posterity. Next week, when the exhibit closes, the floor will be Hoovered and wet-mopped leaving no traces of the work that was created there.

“I don’t mind that my art is temporary,” Prakash said. “This means, I can do this again and again…”

That’s an awesome philosophy to hold, especially considering how we humans cling on to everything knowing everything is transient.

Prakash came to Canada some 10 years ago armed with a fine arts degree from Vadodara. We all know, “the struggling artist” is not an oxymoron.

After some odd jobs, Prakash and his wife Vaishali settled down in the GTA, but when a great job opportunity came up in Michigan, Prakash decided to relocate there. He now works as a 3-D animator.

The exhibition had no sponsors or corporate backing. Prakash paid for the supplies, rent for the hall and other expenses out of his pocket.

This was made using coloured sand. Bet, even NaMo will be stumped by the photograph-like effect.

This was made using coloured sand. Bet, even NaMo will be stumped by this photograph-like effect.

Interesting thing: Prakash was initially planning to create a Polar bear, but the white sand, he ordered from India got stuck in customs or some bureaucratic red tape on account of it being white and a powder! So he changed his plans and ended up making a grizzly catching a fish.

“I have done this back home many times, but realized no one has done anything like this here in Canada,” he said. “Many people here don’t even know all this can be done with Rangoli.”

It all starts with Prakash choosing a subject. The idea is to choose a newsmaker that’s relevant and current. Then he powers his laptop and searches for an image or a photograph to replicate with sand. With his laptop perched beside him, the artist then sets outlines the broad strokes and then slowly_pinch by pinch– he starts filling in the form. Like most artists, Prakash is adept at mixing different hues and colours of sands to get the right shade.

Hours of backbreaking work and two weeks later, poof! it’s all gone into the bowels on a vacuum cleaner. But since I am not an artist, I wouldn’t understand, would I?